Team alignment is essential for teams and organizations to achieve a healthy company culture, ensuring members work cohesively toward common goals, objectives, and a shared vision. To be aligned means team members are on the same page, clearly understand their roles and responsibilities, and work together harmoniously to achieve the desired outcomes.
The core features of a successful alignment often include these elements:
- Shared goals amongst working teams
- Shared vision of the company goals
- A clear understanding of one's role and responsibility
- Prioritizing communication
- Regular collaboration to enhance connection
- Consistent feedback sessions to ensure everyone is on the same page
Organizations must be dedicated to communication and refining their approach, as teams will inevitably face challenges, stress, and external factors that can affect their cohesion and focus.
Establishing alignment is the most essential first step, but this step should be followed by understanding how to maintain aligned teams in the workplace.
How to create team alignment in your workspace
By implementing structured changes within small teams based on a shared vision, goals, and a foundation of strong communication, teams will be more aligned and have the tools to to be more efficient, connected, and supportive.
Here, we will cover some of the most accessible and effective ways to introduce and maintain team alignment in the workplace.
Use a structured check-in
For a new policy to work or a new method of communication to be effective, it will take time, and introducing ways to encourage team alignment is no different.
Organizations and leadership must prioritize maintaining team alignment in the workplace, which can be done with regular meetings and check-ins. Focusing on structure is vital to ensuring these meetings are effective, so there is plenty of space to address potential issues without being talked over or running out of time.
Here are some ways leadership can organize meetings to ensure messages are clear and concise:
- Announce the purpose of the meeting. The announcement could be anything from "general check-in" to addressing a specific issue that has come up. Either way, letting attendees know the meeting's topic helps them prepare, even if it's just mentally.
- Create an agenda. Following a schedule ensures each necessary topic is addressed., which will help keep the discussion on track and prevent it from going off-topic. Share the agenda with participants in advance.
- Be intentional with whom you invite. Ensure you ask the right people with a stake in the meeting's purpose. Avoid inviting unnecessary attendees, as it can lead to unproductive discussions.
- Choose a location that works for everyone. It's sometimes impossible to choose a place that everyone is happy with, but if the meeting doesn't have to be done in person and it's easier to do it online, be flexible and set it up online.
- Set a date and time well in advance. Choose a date and time that works for all or at least the key participants. Consider time zones if you have remote team members.
- Don't go over time. Begin the meeting promptly at the scheduled time, even if not everyone is present. Respect participants' time by ending the session on time, which can be done by designating an attendee to keep an eye on the clock so you can focus on leading the meeting.
- Take notes and share them for feedback. Follow-up is one of the most essential parts of having a successful meeting. Like the timekeepers, designate someone to take notes or minutes, documenting what was discussed, decisions made action items, and deadlines. Share the notes with all the attendees post-meeting and make space for others to add their thoughts if relevant or provide feedback for future meetings.
- Stay SMART. The SMART method stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound,” which can be applied to any task and is a great way to manage meetings.
Regular check-ins are crucial for maintaining clear communication and upholding team alignment. To enhance collaboration and ensure everyone is on the same page, make check-ins consistent, either weekly or biweekly. Regularly coming together is integral to ensuring everything is running smoothly, preventing misunderstandings, and keeping the team's goals and objectives focused.
Understanding conflict resolutions
It’s okay to agree to disagree. Teams with individuals who push back or offer a different perspective can avoid stagnation and encourage more dynamic thinking as they aren’t all simply nodding alongside one another.
There are plenty of online workshops or outside experts who can host an event dedicated to conflict resolution. Investing in classes, workshops, and events is a worthwhile pursuit, as the positive effects of a cohesive team will reverberate throughout the company.
By teaching conflict resolution in the workplace, teams can learn how to disagree and work through these disagreements, making sure that there aren’t unresolved conflicts that can cause issues over time, making them even harder to address as time goes by.
When conflicts are addressed promptly and constructively, it can lead to improved team alignment, better communication, and a more harmonious and productive work environment. Practical conflict resolution skills are essential to solid team leadership and collaboration.
Prioritize off-site retreats
Off-site retreats are a great way to get the whole team or company together to spend quality time bonding and encouraging team alignment in a new environment. Off-site retreats provide a change of scenery and setting away from the usual office environment. This change can help team members break out of their routines and see things from a fresh perspective, leading to improved creativity and collaboration.
Some of the significant benefits offered by an offsite retreat are:
- Concentrated team building time. Set aside dedicated time during the day to engage in team-building activities, which can be icebreaker exercises, a scavenger hunt, or break-out groups with the aim of bonding socially amongst team members
- Opportunities for greater relationship-building. While many companies go on retreats to take a fresh approach to work-related tasks, often hosting brainstorming sessions, etc, it’s important to focus on relationship building simultaneously. Plan a schedule incorporating team lunches and activities like hiking, going to the beach, and taking surf lessons. The combination of work and fun gives employees a chance to look at their profession through fresh eyes and feel more connected to one another.
- Space for brainstorming and problem-solving. When planning a retreat, make a schedule that can be shared with the whole team with designated work-related meetings. Rather than having everyone get down to business as usual, use this time to focus on the bigger picture and work through potential setbacks that are happening during the day-to-day. Host a problem-solving round table where employees can share challenges and potential solutions, documenting these sessions so insights can be shared once back in the office.
To encourage team alignment, organizations need to plan and execute a team retreat thoughtfully to ensure your time away addresses your team's specific needs and challenges. As experts in remote work and team retreats, the Surf Office can help you set up activities and structured opportunities to promote goal alignment.
Focus on asynchronous communication
Today many teams are remote, and due to this major shift in the workplace, leaders and employees have learned much about asynchronous communication and how it contributes to more cohesive and communicative teams.
Organizations can ensure teams collaborate effectively, even when members are in different time zones or have varying schedules, by focusing on tools and methods that approach asynchronous communication, especially in remote work or distributed teams.
Here are a few tips on how you can introduce asynchronous communication in any workplace:
- Email isn't dead yet! Use email for non-urgent communication, updates, and questions that don't require immediate responses. Also, make sure to keep email communication succinct and clear.
- Invest in project management tools. Luckily, remote teams have uplifted the project management tools, like Doist, Asana, etc, that can help teams organize tasks and highlight goals.
- Collaborative tools are king. Platforms like Google Docs are excellent for real-time collaboration. However, they can also be used asynchronously to share information and receive direct feedback if team members are working on a document together.
- Keep open communication channels. Slack or Microsoft Teams can be used for quick questions and updates while also being used as personal connection tools. Team members can have a private chat where they discuss work together on one but also can check in on one another whenever they please.
- Scheduled check-ins. Hold regular asynchronous team meetings or check-ins using shared documents or discussion threads. Team members can post updates, questions, and feedback in these documents, and others can respond when it's convenient for them.
- Knowledge is vital. Have a dedicated space where teams can keep documents, insights, best practices, and lessons learned through written posts or documents. This helps in knowledge transfer and keeps everyone informed.
- Invest in robust onboarding practices. Create asynchronous training materials and resources to help new team members get up to speed at their own pace. This ensures a smooth onboarding process.
You can enhance team synergy and encourage long-term alignment by implementing these strategies and encouraging a clear, consistent, well-documented asynchronous communication culture. Thoughtful communication through technology, knowledge sharing, and regular check-ins is sure to improve productivity and foster collaboration in remote or distributed work environments.
Team alignment is good for the whole company
While successful team alignment is largely determined by internal communication amongst employees and the resulting output, the larger workplace environment will dictate the overall success of every team member.
A psychologically safe workplace will see more team alignment and overall better performance. Psychological safety refers to an environment where team members feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks, as well as collaborating, sharing their ideas, and sharing opinions without fear of negative consequences from leadership or fellow coworkers.
When a workplace is psychologically safe, it fosters trust, which is essential for building strong relationships and ensuring that everyone is working towards common goals. Additionally, a team that is aligned through trust will be naturally more Inclusive, resulting in a diverse range of perspectives and experiences that benefit growth and innovation within the company.
Leadership, whether just learning about team alignment or refining their approach, will do well to look at the company at large and ensure that the environment from the top down values trust, accountability, and growth.