David Michels: The Best Way to Align Leaders—Disagree, Debate, Repeat



Alignment on a company's team isn't just telling everyone to get along. David Michels, who leads Bain’s Results Delivery® practice in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, debunks two myths around the question "is our leadership team aligned?"

Read the Managing Change blog: The Best Way to Align Leaders—Disagree, Debate, Repeat

Read the transcript below.

DAVID MICHELS: I often hear the question from executives, "Is our leadership team aligned?" Now, there's good intent behind this question, because as common wisdom holds, an aligned leadership team that can transmit a very clear and compelling message out to the organization on the direction that they're going in can unleash a lot of productivity simply by having everybody row in the same direction. But there's two big myths that underlie this question.

The first is the idea that alignment means having everybody pleasantly agree with one another. Now, while this might feel good, in fact, it doesn't mean that you necessarily get to the best answer, nor does it mean that you get the real issues—the real perceptions and thinking—on the table to discuss and to debate. And, rather, you run the risk that it stays lurking underneath the table, where it doesn't belong and where it can create damage.

In fact, truly aligned leadership teams are able to do three things: they can disagree, they debate, and then they commit in a healthy way, and repeat.

The second big myth is this notion that alignment is somehow yes or no, that it's there or not, that it's binary, when, in fact, alignment is both fluid and fleeting—that the half life is actually a lot shorter than most people think.

Now, we often see leadership teams that will prematurely declare victory on alignments, sort of checking the box, only to find that months later, if not even weeks later, they start to see cracks in that alignment—cracks that can become major fissures and start to cause serious damage.

The upshot of all of this for leadership teams is that alignment is an incredibly precious asset that requires constant nourishing and reinvestment. The results are worth it.

Read the Managing Change blog: The Best Way to Align Leaders—Disagree, Debate, Repeat