Staying Aligned

 

Lineup1175 As a leader, one of your primary jobs is to take every opportunity to keep the vision and values of the organization in front of your people. It’s so important that they not only buy into these, but also that they communicate them, in a positive fashion or form, to customers. I call this alignment. Leaders, staff and customers are aligned to the organization’s vision and values.

Here’s a case where the alignment fell apart. My wife and I are struggling through having three different refrigerators in the last 21 months. We purchased the original from Sears and have had trouble with each step in the repair/replacement process. This last week refrigerator number 3 broke down. When my wife asked the repair person why this part broke so soon (we’ve only had number 3 since November) he told her, "Oh, they’re made overseas that’s the kind of quality you can expect." Now, as unhappy as I am with Sears right now, I do give them some credit for vision and values — whatever they are. However, I’m reasonably sure that they don’t include knocking international manufacturing of products. I can name a lot of brands manufactured overseas that haven’t caused me any trouble. This person just doesn’t get it — and probably neither does his supervisor. Neither has adopted the core values of Sears to their everyday work life.

What’s missing from the Sears team in question is alignment. It’s the ability to create vision and values and translate them to the people who work for you in such a way that they are aligned to them. So, when they are in front of customers, they have a tremendous context from which to respond and they respond in the context of your vision and values instead of some off-handed remark that probably opposes your values and ticks off the customer.

Starbucks and Apple are two great examples of companies that do a good job of alignment. You can too, no matter how big or small your organization is. Here are three suggestions:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. I learned years ago to never assume the customer gets it — this also applies to employees. Never, never, never assume they know your vision and values. And, it’s more than just a motto and some art work on the walls. You, as leader, need to pound the vision and values into your direct reports and they need to consistently do the same thing. That’s why Sam Walton wanted the Wal-Mart song sung every morning — it reinforced the vision and values. You don’t need a song, but you get the idea.
  2. Actions speak louder than words. It’s true. You can write your values and vision, you can put them on a wall, you can speak about them in meetings but until people actually see you, all your work either falls on deaf ears, or become second nature to your staff. Your actions as a leader should back up your vision and values. People trust what they see and if they don’t see you modeling the vision and values, then why should they? It’s not what you SAY, it’s what you DO.
  3. Consistency. My friend BJ Bueno writes, "Memories for your brand simply can’t fade or disappear when your product or service constantly reminds your customers of favorable past experiences they’ve had." People become raving fans of your company, product or brand when they know from the past that they can enjoy a wonderful experience every time they shop your store, or use your product or service. Keeping your values and vision in front of employees reinforces the need for consistency. The employees know the boundaries and how to perform well within the boundaries. They consistently conform to the single message.

Helping your employees embrace your vision and values (it goes without saying that the values and vision need to be customer-focused and lead to an exceptional brand experience) will only help you win life-long customers. When the employees are evangelists, they create customer evangelists who tell everyone they meet about your products and your heart for the customer.

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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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