3 Steps To An Authentically Aligned Team

Team alignment goes beyond launching buzzwords and organising town halls. Let’s break down how it is done.

Building team alignment is crucial for any organisation: it’s needed to create buy-in for change initiatives, to align employees around company values and vision, and to foster the company culture.

But as with many things, building team alignment is easier said than done. The simple question “How to build team alignment” prompts Google to give 127 million answers!

On the surface, aligned teams are simple: in well-aligned teams, everyone moves in the same direction and works towards commonly shared goals. When an organisation is aligned, there are fewer silos, departments and teams collaborate across team boundaries, and communication flows in all directions. 

Organisations with aligned teams benefit from higher employee engagement and experience than their competition. Statistically speaking, this turns into better profits, higher employee retention, and better productivity.

Team alignment stems from clear communication

What does team alignment look like in practice?

There’s one common misconception about aligned teams that’s good to get out of the way: alignment in teams doesn’t mean the absence of conflict. One common misconception about team alignment is that there are no conflicts. 

As BetterUp highlights, an aligned team deals with arising conflicts constructively and relies on strategic planning so everyone knows the goals and the way forward. 

Instead, what aligned teams and organisations do differently is communicate abundantly and clearly. 

Team communication is at the heart of team alignment, and through my experience as a team-building facilitator, leader and HR professional, I’ve learned that three core elements help foster team alignment through communication: 

  • An omnichannel approach,
  • Facilitating authentic dialogue,
  • Creating everyday reminders to strengthen the message.

Together, these three make a powerful combination. And it works: that’s why the Collaborative Art® team-building method I created is based on the same three pillars.

Build alignment by communicating where people are

In this three-pronged approach to building team alignment, the first element is choosing the right channels to convey the organisation’s strategy, values or upcoming changes. 

Often, choosing the right channel means choosing more than one channel. As tempting as it might sound to craft a communiqué, publish it on the intranet, and congratulate the leadership team on the job well done, it rarely leads to the expected results. 

Employees are used to communicating quickly, easily and not exclusively, which means using multiple channels daily. When aiming at improved team alignment through communication, the leadership needs to lean into this omnichannel approach.

This doesn’t mean the intranet is out of the picture entirely. Still, it should be completed with short, informal messages in different teams’ WhatsApp groups, Teams’ channels or Slack channels dedicated to that purpose. 

Smart corporate communicators can also adopt content marketers' strategies and turn strategy notes into an interactive content series, such as an interview series, “Did you know” newsflash updates and interactive Q&A forums.

One part of the omnichannel approach is organising an off-site event or activity. My team and I at Collaborative Art® often have the pleasure of welcoming teams who are in the midst of change. 

For example, returning to office work or a hybrid model after a long remote working period over the pandemic is a big change for teams. A shared challenge in a new environment can be a powerful tool to help leaders and teams reconnect and rediscover the ways of working together.

Engage teams in authentic dialogue

In addition to communicating on the right channels, the message needs to be communicated the right way. The second prong of improving team alignment through better communication is the need for authentic dialogue.

Smart and ambitious professionals don’t simply want to be told what to do. They want to actively participate in the conversation and pull their weight in moving the company in the right direction. Hence, communicating with them shouldn’t be a one-way, top-to-bottom operation but a dialogue that allows participation from both sides.

A famous quote that’s often attributed to Maya Angelou applies to this situation: 

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

For example, many companies like hosting town hall events to communicate with the staff about upcoming changes and difficult transitions. This can be a great part of a wider omnichannel approach as long as the events are truly interactive. 

Other ways to ensure authentic dialogue include: 

  • Spicing up big group events by hosting smaller group discussions for the teams to voice their questions and concerns, 
  • Creating an event calendar to allow more introverted team members to digest the news and answer their questions later,
  • Or setting up a weekly Q&A session where anyone can submit questions.

This engagement aspect of effective aligned communication is one reason why I created the Collaborative Art® Shared Vision workshop for leaders. The concept brings a group of senior leaders (and their teams) to a seemingly impossible art challenge. 

They must communicate their shared vision, values or strategy by transforming it into a masterpiece within a limited timeframe. They also use a shared visual language inspired by a famous artist’s style. 

Surmounting this challenge together helps leaders and their teams invest themselves in the process personally, and subsequently, feel pride and ownership in the outcome. 

This is particularly valuable in situations where the participants haven’t been able to impact a decision or the change of direction. When an organisation is faced with a transformation or a new direction, teams can feel powerless amidst the change. Processing the situation through a shared challenge allows them to buy into the decision, which in turn makes communicating about it to their teams easier.

As each team member feels the need to - and is allowed to - dive in and contribute to how the vision or change is expressed, they will feel an increased sense of ownership and fully commit to turning it into reality. 

How to build team alignment through daily reminders

Finally, as the vision is communicated through several channels, encouraging conversation and employee buy-in, it’s time for the third prong: creating daily reminders that make the new strategy, direction or initiative an integral part of the organisation and team’s life. 

Any message, no matter how clear and compelling, only has a real-life impact when it’s repeated often enough. 

Daily reminders help employees internalise and remember the strategy or goals they are working towards or the values their work is built upon. Reminders are also great icebreakers and conversation starters between teams, and a handy way to communicate the company values or mission to new employees, visitors and clients. 

What these visual reminders are can vary from one company to another, but at Collaborative Art®, we always encourage team-building clients to display their masterpieces in a well-travelled place in the company’s headquarters. This ensures the message and pride derived from the team-building experience is seen every day and literally becomes part of the decor.

Teams that are based across multiple locations can receive digital prints of their masterpiece on mugs, mouse pads or posters. They serve as a powerful visual reminder of where they are going and how they are going to get there, as well as reinforce that they can achieve the seemingly impossible through collaboration.

The format is secondary; it’s the message that counts. Each day, it reminds the employees of their role in the company and the mission they are turning into reality. 

Leaders are at the centre of building team alignment

Team communication is a powerful tool in fostering organisational alignment, and even though it’s not easy to execute, the three-pronged communication approach makes building team alignment much easier. 

To get started, begin by assessing the communication channels to ensure the message is distributed through various channels for maximum impact. Secondly, use those channels in a conversational way to build buy-in, and finally, focus on creating daily reminders that turn the message from an abstract thing to a concrete part of the company's life. 

In business, the only constant is change. There’s no reason to be afraid or worried about it. Through these team alignment practices, you’ll nurture a resilient, flexible culture that helps your team and organisation succeed. 

I would love to hear from you. What stands between you and an aligned, invested team? Share your questions and best team alignment practices in the comments below!

About the Author

Steph Fonteyn is an internationally exhibited artist, corporate facilitator and the founder of Collaborative Art® team building. She ties together the fine threads of creativity, courage and leadership to provide her clients with transformative team-building and workshop experiences. Her mission is to empower professionals worldwide to tap into their inherent creativity to be better leaders and bring about change.

Steph founded Collaborative Art® in 2011 to unite teams around a shared vision through art, and she has developed innovative techniques to unlock both the creative and collaborative potential in teams. With her artistic talent, public speaking skills, HR experience, and team-building expertise, Steph has become a respected figure in creativity, communication, and leadership.

As an award-winning public speaker, she has shared her expertise on creativity and courage at various events, including TEDx in 2015.  

Steph splits her time between creative artwork and supporting companies through creative, collaborative team-building activities. She lives in Switzerland, near Geneva.

5 Things Leaders Can Learn From Artists
The arts and leadership are closer to one another than it seems