Tag: clarity

Importance of Alignment

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about the importance of alignment in organizations.

I’ve been reading an excellent book, “The Work of Leaders: How Vision, Alignment and Execution Will Change the Way You Lead” by Julie Straw, Mark Scullard, Susie Kokkonen and Barry Davis. The book starts out by describing two scenarios:

“Scenario One: The CEO sends out an email announcing the company’s ambitious sales goals and then takes the afternoon off to go golfing. The employees are left with no clear process, no strategy and no delegation of responsibilities. Without direction or rationale, everyone is worried about making mistakes. There are whisper sessions along the rows of cubicles. When something goes wrong, the finger-pointing begins. Trust and morale are low, and this is reflected not only in their ability to execute but also in interactions with their customers.”

“Scenario Two: At the quarterly all-company meeting, the CEO stands before a simple map of the company’s strategy. ‘These are the three platforms that lead to our success,’ he says. ‘If your work isn’t related to or supporting one of these things, then please stop what you’re doing because you’re not working on the right stuff.’ Since clearly establishing this vision, the company has been aligned from the CFO who tracks the top line to the customer-facing people who work on the front lines. All are focused on what they need to do to execute the vision, and all are invested in the process. They openly collaborate, challenge one another and celebrate accomplishments as they reach milestones.”

Obviously, we know which scenario makes the most sense and will yield the best results. And yet, we’ve all seen many variations of Scenario One play out in our work environments. We see people working away, often having way too much to do without a strong sense of how their efforts are helping the company meet its goals. Often, the goals change frequently, and communication to employees may or may not relate to the strategic vision. It’s hard for people to connect what they’re doing every day to the company’s overall success unless someone connects the dots for them, and that’s a big part of what leaders’ jobs are all about.

Warren Bennis, author of numerous best-selling books about leadership said, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” This is certainly a big part of a leader’s responsibility to insure an organization’s success. But, equally as important, is the ability for a leader to verify that the execution going on within the organization supports that vision.

Many of my clients who are managers complain to me that their people are working on the wrong things. “Why can’t they prioritize?” is the question they often ask. Some people do have more difficulty making distinctions when analyzing what’s the most important thing to do. However, often the reason people can’t prioritize is not because they’re lacking in that skill, but because they don’t know enough about the company’s vision or goals to know what to prioritize. They have loads of stuff to do, and unless someone above them has made it really clear what’s most important, they will just keeping doing the stuff as it comes up.

Employee alignment is too often left out of the equation. I call it the glue securing that the vision (what leadership has envisioned or the end goal) and execution (what people are doing) come together in reality.

Straw and Davis’ book goes on to give leaders three areas that require the most focus when helping to achieve employee alignment:

• Clarity
o Explaining rationale
o Structuring messages

• Dialogue
o Exchanging perspectives
o Being receptive

• Inspiration
o Being expressive
o Being encouraging

This week, ask yourself if you’re giving the right kind of information about the vision and strategy of your company so that your team members can align their duties. When asking employees to prioritize, are you clear and do you offer concrete ways for them to support the vision? Also, how inspiring is your communication? Do you keep changing the goals, making it difficult for your team members to hit their targets? And, are you receptive to their ideas about better ways to execute in order to meet the goals?

People can toil endlessly doing things that may not make your vision take shape. Make sure you haven’t left out the glue that makes everything come together. Without alignment, your ship could go in a completely different direction than you wanted and your people will only get more and more tired as they row in the wrong direction.

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

7/18/11 “Chef’s Special”

Good day, team,

One of my clients used to work as a chef. He often speaks about the high pressure atmosphere that exists in high end restaurant kitchens, the commitment to quality and the amount of criticism that’s levied on most chefs and their assistants. No matter how bad things get in his current corporate management job, it’s never as bad as what he experienced back in his days as a chef. All of this reminded me of a challenge I wrote back in 2007 that highlights the positive aspects of what it means to work in such a high pressure business. It is still as relevant today as it was then. Enjoy!

This week, I read a magazine article about top chefs in America. One of those interviewed, Thomas Keller, who started the famous “French Laundry” restaurant in Napa Valley and now runs “Per Se” in New York, is known throughout the world for his perfectionism. He’s one of the few chef’s who has earned a combined six Michelin stars.

In the interview, he said something that really struck me: “I tell cooks it’s about four things: awareness, inspiration, intellect and evolution.” When I read this statement, it occured to me that these are four of the five traits I consider to be most important in a leader. The fifth is “clarity.”

Without awareness, people miss what’s right in front of them as well as the benefit of self-observation. Without inspiration, they themselves are unable to inspire others to want to do more and be more. Without the intellect that comes from book and street smarts, it’s hard to keep up in today’s global world. Without the willingness to evolve as things change, people lose their flexibility. And without clarity, it’s hard for people to see the truth in a situation and communicate it in such a way that most people understand it. All of the good leaders I know embody these qualities.

Your challenge this week is to choose one of these attributes and make an effort to enhance it within yourself. If the trait is awareness, try being more present in each moment. Just look out of your eyes and feel your feet on the floor. Or maybe you become present to your breath. Try using whatever brings you back to the moment so you don’t miss what’s happening around you.

Maybe you’d like to be more inspirational to the people you work with. What do you love doing every day and how do you let others know that it gives you energy? Try sharing what energizes you.

How about increasing your knowledge about a subject and finding a way to share that with others? Have you learned something new that you’d like to share with a colleague?

Consider your evolution. Are you growing as conditions change and as you mature in your current job or life situation? If you feel stagnant, how can you jump-start your evolution by approaching something in a new way and challenging yourself differently? Are you someone who acts as a change agent within your organization?

Finally, how clear are you in your thoughts and words? Are you able to see through many extraneous facts to the heart of the matter and then clearly communicate what you see? Ask a co-worker what he or she thinks of your communication skills. Find out whether people understand what you’re saying. It may be a lack of clarity that makes it difficult for others to understand what you mean.

Whatever quality you choose, don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s through trial and error that we learn how to change the way we do things and thus gain a new perspective about ourselves and the world around us.

The article on top chefs noted that Thomas Keller had stood on a chair to sift confectionary sugar onto a cake to see if it would look more like fallen snow. Sure enough, the picture of the scrumptious-looking chocolate cake in the magazine looked just like snow had fallen on it. I was inspired by Keller’s creativity, adventurousness and commitment to making the most beautiful cake he could make.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2011 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.


Good day, team,

Toward the end of last year, I asked some of my clients to answer three questions in preparation for 2010. Answering these questions is a useful exercise at the beginning of a new year, since they force us to focus on what we want to let go of and what we want more of in our professional and personal lives.

Here are the questions I posed:

1) What would you like to do differently this year (old habits you’d prefer not to repeat; dealing with something you avoided last year; creating an opportunity to innovate)?

2) What would you like more of in your professional life? What do you need to do to get it?

3) What would you like more of in your personal life? What do you need to do to get it?

I also recently read a Harvard Business Review blog (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/01/three_questions_executives_sho.html) that posed three other good questions:

1) If there was only one thing I could do to improve my business, what would it be and how would I make it happen?

2) If there was only one thing I could focus on to improve my personal performance, what would that be and how would I make it happen?

3) What messages am I not listening to or refusing to confront in my business and personal performance and how am I going to overcome that this year?

If we pause to reflect before embarking on a new beginning, we give ourselves a chance to make better, more intentional decisions about direction, goals and courses of action. We are often so busy with our day-to-day tasks that we don’t rise above the daily to-do list to get a broader viewpoint. These questions require us to think through what’s come before as a springboard for creating a road map for the future. We can review, compare, contrast and analyze possibilities to make important distinctions and, from that insight, better decisions about how to move forward.

If you haven’t done so already, this week ask yourself a few of the above-mentioned questions. The HBR blog encourages the following approach:

“I suggest real interaction with these questions. Don’t just think about them for a minute and then put them aside. Write out answers. Commit to what you’ve written down, and start the year off well.”

Writing your answers down is an excellent way to see if you’re being truthful with yourself. It also encourages more commitment to do what you say you want to do.

January is one of the few times we can demarcate a new start: It’s an opportunity to renew and refresh. Take advantage of this new beginning and ask yourself some good questions. You’ll have a chance to live the questions and the answers all year long.

Have a good week.


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.