Alignment Vs. Manipulation

March 27, 2012

This past week, on a very respected and widely read management blog I read the following:

“Here’s the Best Definition of Employee Engagement You’ll Ever See Anywhere, Somebody once told me – and this is some of the best advice I ever got – that for any business there are three levels of leadership. One is getting somebody to do what you want them to do. The second is getting people to think what you want them to think; then you don’t have to tell them what to do because they will figure it out.”

This type of statement is at the root of so many of our management challenges in all corporate cultures. Organizations and their leaders are thinking that aligning a team is about “getting them to think what you think”. Personally, I think this is closer to Manipulation than Alignment. Everyone wants employees to tow the company line, because the saying is true, at the end of the day you’re either on the team or you’re not. But as an employee, how that looks will always differ from the views of management. Creating engagement amongst employees doesn’t require manipulation, because that’s not true engagement, it requires corporate alignment.

Aligning a team can be done and great organizations do it, here are the four basic principles to help ensure your team is aligned.

Awareness – Know your values, beliefs, Brand Promise, and Strategic Differentiators. Know why your organization exists, what it does and how it does what it does.

Recruiting – Use a proven hiring process that utilizes methods not just to finding the skill set you need but also to screen for the cultural fit as outlined in the Awareness principle. Aligned companies recognize skill, and hire for attitude. One is a skill that can be learned, the other is inherent.

Listening – Give people a voice and a venue to utilize it. Let people know they have been heard by acting on what you can. Publicly acknowledge what you won’t be acting on and why, doing this gives you the opportunity to reinforce all your key metrics in the Awareness principle.

Attachment – Lose your ego, and insist on candor. Doing so will allow people to feel free to speak the truth and not the politically best answer. This is powerful as people’s truth, whatever it is, is better than getting people to say “what you want them to think”. The end result of this is getting past each personal bias and getting to the root of “What is right” not “who is right” which helps the team grow and develop.