It’s easy to lose sight of where you are going when you’ve had your nose to the grindstone for an extended period of time. You get focused on your task and you don’t take the time to lift your head and see where you are headed in the long term.
Sometimes it’s just the opposite. The long term looks so confusing and unclear you decide that maybe it’s best to just focus on something you know and can control.
Both of these approaches are damaging long term for individuals and the organizations they work in. When people become so task-oriented that they lose sight of the bigger picture the result is misaligned work, the creation of individual and departmental silos, and poor teamwork and collaboration.
This is especially true with long-time employees. Business authors Scott and Ken Blanchard highlight this in their most recent leadership post for Fast Company. As they explain, “Leaders and organizations generally do a good job of clarifying goals as they are getting new people up to speed. With long-time employees, however, leaders often assume that the employee instinctively knows what’s important. As a result, leaders generally don’t spend the same amount of time and energy communicating clear objectives to seasoned employees that they do with new hires.”
The result? A high level of misalignment in most organizations.
“We did a study a number of years ago with a large petroleum company in North America that shows how rarely this clarity occurs. We asked more than 2,000 employees and their managers to share their goal expectations with us. To begin, we asked the employees to rank the top five things they felt they were responsible for. Then we asked the managers to list and prioritize the five things they were actually holding each of their direct reports accountable for. We saw only a 19% agreement across the population of 2,000 people!”
Is misalignment holding you back? Here are three strategies for creating more alignment in your organization:
- Make sure clear agreements are in place. All good performance starts with clear goals. It’s a process of creating clarity about why we’re here, what we’re doing, and how we’re going to work together.
- Make sure everyone’s eyes stay on the ball. This includes regular one-on-one conversations with direct reports that include feedback and evaluation of how each person is doing against established targets.
- Catch people doing things right. Help people notice and experience the incremental successes they are having. It’s easy to slip back into old habits. Provide clarity and encouragement on a regular basis.
Don’t let a short term focus keep you—or your organization—from long-term success. Take a minute this week to lift your head, look around and check for clarity and alignment. Also, to learn more about the impact that misalignment can have on performance, be sure to check out Scott and Ken Blanchard’s post at Fast Company, If Your Employees Are Squabbling, Your Company’s Probably Standing Still.