Building any organization or team is challenging and requires diligence, expertise and a little bit of luck. Having a great product or service is great, but it’s not enough. Among other factors, what’s needed is a cohesive leadership team that is performing at full potential. In our experience, for a team to achieve its full potential, it requires two interrelated components—strategic alignment and relational competence.

Strategic Alignment

A competitive or changing environment is dynamic and complex and forces organizations to make ongoing adjustments, which naturally challenge any leadership team’s ability to stay aligned. However, maintaining strategic alignment at the leadership team level is absolutely critical for results. Being aligned doesn’t mean that the leadership team needs to agree on everything, but it does mean that it needs to be in sync on the vision and strategy, and that it cannot work at cross-purposes to execute.

Team members should debate, challenge, seek clarity and then unite and operate as one voice in leading the company to execute to reach the vision. A recent AON Hewitt Global Best Employer Research Report suggested that “Engagement is derived from the way a senior leader connects with other senior leaders in the organization and how effective and accountable (not necessarily how nice) they are as a unit.” In other words, the rest of the organization is watching how the leadership team challenges each other, holds each other accountable and leads with a common purpose.

Relational Competence

Relational competence, a team’s ability to interact productively and hold each other accountable when things are going well and when they’re not, is the glue that can help a leadership team maintain strategic alignment. When team members develop deep trusting relationships and are able to engage effectively on difficult and important issues, they begin to unlock their collective potential to be more innovative, execute more effectively and ultimately accelerate the organization’s ability to scale.

Building relational competence requires individual and collective commitment, and the recognition that how one person is motivated is not always the same as how others are motivated. Leaders need to challenge themselves to gain awareness of their relational strengths and weaknesses and actively seek to understand what drives their peers to relate as they do.This deeper understanding of motivations helps team members build trust and enables more productive dialogue around the inevitable challenges that arise in growing an organization.

Unlocking Potential

There is a strong correlation between the relational competence of a leadership team and their ability to optimize their collective potential and ultimately to stay in sync on how they are leading and executing to achieve their common goals. Like anything else that is worthwhile, a cohesive team needs to be nurtured. Leadership teams should regularly assess their level of strategic alignment and the strength of relationships among team members.


Image Courtesy of Hans

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