The following is adapted from the book Align: Four Simple Steps for Leaders to Create Employee Engagement Fulfillment Through Alignment Leadership by Chris Meroff.
Leaders may have good intentions but fall short of creating employee fulfillment and ultimately achieving true alignment. You may be going through this yourself and wondering why leading seems so difficult. You’re not alone. The leadership struggle is more common than you think, and the symptoms are many.
Common Symptoms of the Leadership Struggle
- Ambiguous company purpose
- Misalignment between people and company/team/individual purpose
- Instability during times of crisis
- Lack of commitment to core values
- Lack of cohesion or feeling of togetherness among employees
- No personal or professional fulfillment
If you feel this struggle, your people are feeling it too. Your employees don’t feel fulfilled, and over time, they’ll leave in search of fulfillment somewhere else. High employee turnover is increasingly common, and though it’s easy to blame the millennials or outside circumstances, the reality is that people of all generations and in all economies leave jobs because of misalignment. This happens when no one has defined how to win at work.
Misalignment also creates distance between you and your own leaders, because you feel like you’re letting them down. You might even feel like you don’t deserve your leadership position. This misalignment between you and your leaders — and you and your employees — creates incredible stress. And no one leaves stress at work. We take it home with us, where it affects our family life and other personal relationships.
There’s a way out of this cycle, but you must have the strength of will to go through it. To become the leader you were meant to be, the leader you have the gifts to be, you have to see enough value in it to trade your own comfort today for the kind of a leader you can become tomorrow. You need to practice Alignment Leadership.
Alignment Leadership in Four Steps
Four simple steps will get you to Alignment Leadership, but you have work to do. These steps are simple, not easy.
The first step has to do with culture. That’s a popular buzzword that not everyone understands. It’s the foundation of Alignment Leadership, and you can’t take the next step without first creating a culture within your company. Then and only then can you take the next step of prioritizing tasks. Next, you can align those tasks to your resources, and finally, create a personal success plan for each employee.
Each of these steps is about aligning employees with a shared purpose through conversations. These conversations with your people ensure each individual knows exactly what they’re supposed to do, when they’re supposed to do it, and most importantly, why.
This fourth step, where you create a personal success plan for each employee, may look like what you currently call employee engagement. It’s not — it’s much, much more than that. If you’re focused on employee engagement without first completing steps one, two, and three, it won’t work. Employee engagement fulfillment is only effective when a person has been willing to fully comprehend and fully commit through the first three steps.
Jumping to step four without working through steps one, two, and three is essentially showing your people the door. It’s how you give them reasons to leave. You must first have the conversations that clarify purpose, culture, and more, and then gain the comprehension and commitment of your people to attain the employee fulfillment necessary to live out Alignment Leadership.
Once you’ve accomplished the first three steps, it’s your job to get clarity on what your people want out of work and out of life so that you can align with their success. Throughout each step in the pursuit of alignment, you will feel like you’re winning and once you achieve the fourth step, you’ll be able to influence your employees in positive ways that are mutually fulfilling. You’ll know what true Alignment Leadership is all about and have the tools you need to overcome the leadership struggle.
For more advice on leadership, you can find Align on Amazon.
Chris Meroff has spent more than 25 years supporting leaders in education at both the campus and district levels. Through his work in 17 states and across thousands of school districts, he’s seen firsthand the frustration administrators feel when their efforts don’t produce the alignment they desire. He’s made a career of testing new leadership ideas to see what works — and what doesn’t — in service-oriented leadership. His business, Alignment Leadership Consulting, exists to teach leaders how they can boldly pursue a workplace culture that prioritizes employee fulfillment. You can learn more at AlignLeadThrive.com.