Stay in Balance
When I was a kid, my father used to take me sport fishing off the Southern California coast. I figured out fast that conditions on the water are slippery at best. While growing your business, especially as your feedback relationship changes, it is important to be aware that you are still on a slippery slope. The business alignment pyramid is inverted for a reason. It doesn’t give the illusion of assumed stability. There’s an inherent limit to it; you must continually balance it, or it will start to wobble and fall.
To stay in balance, you must make sure that you always look at your business objectively. Maintaining balance can help your team to coordinate and strive to improve what they’re doing. When errors in judgment occur, a balanced team can learn from the feedback. Instead of getting overconfident, they stay vigilant—and that helps you land the next big fish.
A balanced business allows you to build on your success and momentum. However, you need to proactively recheck for balance, rather than getting stuck waiting for something to break. If you don’t pay attention, listen to feedback, and maintain balance, your business will topple and return to the starting line. Over the course of my work, I have discovered that there are a number of reasons why this occurs. For example:
The Slide Right Curve
The Slide Right Curve says that the results you want will deteriorate over time, unless you actively try to improve them by climbing to the left. It’s important to be cognizant that you are not sliding to the right, and that you are actively climbing to the left, or your whole pyramid starts to wobble.
Don’t Set It and Forget It
Once you have your business aligned, you may be tempted to think, “I did it! It’s done. Now I can cross that off the list and move on to the next thing.” That kind of thinking is a trap. You want to avoid the mindset of “set it and forget it.” Thinking you can set it, forget it, and move on to the next thing is a recipe for regressing back into dysfunction.
The Coach is Not the Leader
Remember, your coach’s job is to help you get unstuck, to see things that are difficult to self-diagnose, and to help implement alignment tools successfully so you do not need the coach anymore. You are the leader. Engage, question, and push back if discussions are not producing clear and understandable answers to your essential questions. Do the answers help sketch the desired blueprint of your company? Do they resonate with you? Would you feel comfortable explaining them to someone interviewing to join your leadership team? When you start the coaching process, assume that you are going to have to stand up and passionately communicate these concepts.
The Balancing Act
It’s important that you schedule time to objectively question whether you are keeping the pyramid aligned.
- Establish a group of people whose job is to play devil’s advocate and assess the alignment. They shouldn’t tear people down, but they also shouldn’t just provide false confirmation.
- If frustration starts to return, look at the struggles you’re having. If they are fundamental problems, the root cause is likely some sort of misalignment within the pyramid, and it usually starts with the core.
- Reexamine the answers to your essential questions at each level of the pyramid. Do some answers need to be rethought? Staying vigilant and dealing with reality using your positive relationship with feedback helps you to understand why things are working or not. Just because you like the answers doesn’t mean things are perfect.
- And finally, as a human being in a stressful position, make sure that you yourself are functioning well and not sliding to the right. Know yourself by asking what is essential to your well-being. Have a healthy state of awareness.
Find what works best for you. If you are balanced, you are more open to feedback.
In closing, there will be times when you question how the transformation of your company is going. You may doubt whether the changes you’re making are really working, and you might even consider quitting. When that happens, return to the answers you defined using your chosen core alignment tool. Those answers are not just for the benefit of the rest of the organization. They will help you as the leader through challenging moments, as well.