Ask any group of people for their opinions on a topic and you’ll likely get an array of responses. As internet radio commentator Steve Maraboli once said, “If you fuel your journey on the opinions of others, you are going to run out of gas.” These words of wisdom are especially important to supervisors in their daily interaction with employees.
Agreement is a novel objective; it’s not always possible and shouldn’t be the desired result of interactions with employees. To achieve performance outcomes, supervisors need consistency between the expectations they communicate to direct reports and the behaviors that result. The formula for success involves alignment, not agreement.
While alignment and agreement may be interpreted as grammatically similar, they are actually very different in application. Agreement requires all parties to have a shared opinion, and that’s not likely a realistic objective in a group setting. Alignment, on the other hand, is very possible. To achieve alignment, all parties must share a common order, arrangement, or understanding. While every employee may not agree on a course of action selected, they all need to be aligned and on board with roles and responsibilities in achieving desired outcomes once the task begins. Your effectiveness as a supervisor reflects how well you understand and manage this process.
Getting alignment is all about the task, objective, or desired outcomes – the what. It requires interaction and engagement with employees for the purpose of communication, dialogue, and collaboration. Communication is used to provide direction and clarify expectations. Dialogue is used to verify and ensure understanding. Collaboration is used to resolve any challenges or overcome barriers to meeting desired outcomes. In practice, getting alignment is an ongoing process that allows a group of many to act as one.
Getting results through others is the ultimate responsibility of a supervisor. Success requires more than position, title, or authority. It requires leadership and an ability to influence decisions. While you may not be able to control opinions or command agreement, you can and certainly should aspire to bring about alignment. The result of doing so greatly increases the likelihood of favorable outcomes and demonstrates to others your ability to effectively manage and lead a team of individuals as one.