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Hundreds of people are gathered in an airport terminal, ready for the journey that will take them to their destination, shuffling along the passageways. It’s only when every single passenger is on-board that the crew can confirm that ‘boarding is complete’, and the pilot can take off. If even a single passenger fails to board, the flight simply cannot take off, and no one is going anywhere.

When we work with corporate teams to build alignment and collaboration, we see that things work in a very similar way. As a CEO, you’ve defined your vision, targets, and strategic focus areas. But it’s crucial for you to know, has every single team member really understood and committed to these? Is ‘boarding complete’ so that the flight to your goals can take off?

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There are three important dimensions to this ‘boarding’ in the corporate world, and it’s important to get each one of them right

Goals: Have you clearly articulated the goals and does everyone understand them? Are the goals SURE – Simple, Understandable, Remembered and Executable? Often, we find individuals, who haven’t understood or committed themselves to the organizational goals, so haven’t boarded your flight.

Culture and Alignment: Next comes your culture – has everyone bought into that? Every individual has beliefs, values and patterns, and often this means that they believe that things will always be a certain way. This can come in the way of believing that things could be different or better. Coming back to our flight analogy, this is a bit like a boarding gate full of people with armfuls and armfuls of hand baggage. When everyone comes together into the narrow alleys, they just won’t be able to enter. Passengers need to shed some of their baggage, or someone needs to help them.

That’s just what we do in our corporate training sessions, resolve those beliefs – the myths and taboos, so that people can move towards future goals.

Seen from the individual’s perspective; unless my beliefs are either aligned with the leaders, or dissolved, or until you answer my questions and resolve my misgivings, I’m simply not boarding your plane.

As the leader, or pilot of the plane, the CEO needs to be closely tuned with these aspects, and cannot simply assume that everyone will come on board.

That’s where our work in creating alignment and facilitating collaboration comes in. We design programs and then use methods that ensure that ‘boarding is complete’, and not through enforcement, but willingly.

For instance, let’s look at myths and taboos that each person carries in their own mind. We observe the group and pick up on these, and we may find that there’s a lack of alignment between the leaders’ convictions and the team members’ beliefs. So we create a trustworthy platform, where anonymously people can say, ‘you know, that’s your belief, but I don’t buy that. Can you share that in a way that makes sense to me?’, and provide an opportunity for better understanding and alignment.

When it comes to a concept, such as a vision statement, we often use models and analogies that make them more real and less abstract for team members to understand.

Communication: To resolve misgivings, we create an honest, transparent communication forum. So, for instance, participants write their queries, we facilitate that, then leaders sit in the ‘hot seat’ and answer them one by one. In one company we saw the breakdown of alignment – the leave policy wasn’t clear to all, profit sharing was not happening and people didn’t know why, action taken on information collected at exit interviews wasn’t visible, HR was not thanking people. Clear action items emerged that could resolve these issues and people committed to them.

We design leadership development programs to overcome the difficulties in getting everyone on board. We identify the hindrances, and design programs. Alignment and collaboration are not achieved by just playing games or doing some outdoor activities. They result from heart-to-heart conversations, processes where we help to dissolve beliefs, honest and transparent feedback, and process changes. We bring a fresh perspective, a structured approach and create the magic of real collaboration, consistently.

Readers, would love to hear from you if you have faced these situations, and how you are managing them. Do reach out to me or post a comment.

By Vivek Yatnalkar