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5 Ways An Aligned Team Is A Better Team (What I’ve Learned From North Point)

Ever wonder what would happen if you got everyone in your church or organization moving in the same direction?

For the last seven years, I’ve led a North Point Strategic Partner Church and have learned so much about the benefit of having an aligned church. One of the key benefits of a simple church model (which North Point and its partners practice) is alignment.

Alignment happens when you have a team of people – from the top leadership right through to the newest volunteer – pulling in the same direction not only around the same goals, but using the same strategy.

Seems simple, but it isn’t.

Everybody I talk to is in favour of aligning their organization (why have hundreds of people working at crossed purposes?), but few people seem to be able to pull it off.

Rarely have I seen an organization more intentional about alignment than North Point.

When people approach us as a partner church, few leaders ever ask us about alignment. But as they are leaving after some time with us, they inevitably remark on the level of ownership the staff and volunteers have.

I agree. Team and organizational alignment is a powerful thing when it happens.

That’s the power of alignment. To get very different people rallied around a common cause is a wonderful thing.

An aligned team, quite simply, is a better team.

alignment

Here are five benefits to working in an aligned organization:

1. Alignment creates a badly needed dividing line 

Being everything to everyone is pretty much the same as being nothing to everyone.

Few organizations struggle with this more than the church. Alignment forces you to be about a few defined things rather than about everything (aka nothing).

Once you choose the things you are going to do and align around it, the people who want you to be about everything will sometimes leave, but that’s okay.

Being aligned almost always means you will accomplish more.

2. Alignment forces out personal agendas 

I learned this early on from Andy Stanley.

When the organization’s agenda becomes clear and the main priority for everyone, it forces out competing personal agendas.

Everything from politics to selfish personal goals get squeezed out.

Why does alignment do this? Well, alignment forces out personal agendas, because leaders commit to something bigger than themselves.

3. Alignment does not mean full agreement; it means full focus 

Critics of alignment say that alignment means you snuff out independent thought and, in its extreme form, create a culture of yes people. I disagree.

Most high capacity leaders actually want to work in an environment that is going to produce results.

Alignment around key objectives does that.

Alignment does not mean full agreement; it means full focus.

4. Alignment removes all excuses

We’ve had several staff join us our team who used to be part of other, less aligned organizations.

Within a year, they had the same experience I did once we got our teams fully aligned: all your excuses for a lack of progress disappear.

You can’t blame anyone else because everyone actually supports you and your agenda—because there is only one agenda.

This allows you to realize your potential, but the excuses you used to use for lack of results are gone. And church leaders can be notorious excuse makers.

5. Alignment allows you to harness more creativity, not less

Counterintuitively, having a common mission and strategy means that your team can harness greater – not lesser – creativity.

Because you agree on direction and priorities, you spend significant time getting creative about implementing your vision.

You no longer waste hours debating what to do. Instead, you can spend hours getting better at what you’ve agreed you’ll do.

What About You?

If you are facing internal or external resistance to alignment, I want to encourage you to move past that resistance. You’ll be so glad you did.

That’s what I’m learning and enjoying about being part of an aligned organization. What are you discovering?

9 Comments

  1. Hawkeye on April 29, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Great points in this post. This article perfectly encapsulates and expands on principles I learned in business. Focusing on agreement is a loser’s game. People are individuals with differing priorities, dreams, goals and sensibilities. Focusing on alignment pays huge dividends that similar effort spent trying to convince everybody to agree with you will never return.

    I’ve always said that the organizational needs of your ministry, church or business come first. Gathering co-leaders and colleagues together in alignment under those needs is what propels an organization forward.

    Spending time and effort to obtain individual agreement on every dot and tittle of a strategy isn’t necessarily a waste of time. However, if organizations spent the same amount of time on achieving alignment and commitment to a strategy (regardless of whether or not every team member is in 100% individual agreement) then there is an opportunity to solicit intentional commitment of resources and focus to achieve the goal that doesn’t depend on agreement.

  2. Cory on April 27, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    This was perfect timing for me too. It seems like all at once all of the websites I follow posted articles about team building. I’m just a children’s pastor, but this is one of my missions for our kids ministry.

  3. Dave on April 21, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Okay, so help me, how do you achieve alignment? It has been like herding cats to me. (sorry, meant to post that as a profile picture, can’t seem to get it off the post.)

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 21, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      Now I feel like I know you Dave. 🙂 Great pic.

      Does this post help? https://careynieuwhof.com/2014/06/motivated/

      • Dave on April 21, 2015 at 8:53 pm

        Perfect. I don’t know you but my wife started reading your blog and said she enjoyed it a lot. I must have signed on somewhere along the line and saw it in my inbox. The timing couldn’t have been better. After reading these two, I look forward to reading and listening to more. Thank you.

        • Carey Nieuwhof on April 22, 2015 at 8:27 am

          Dave…thanks. Stories like yours are the fuel that helps keep me writing. Welcome!

  4. Sean Chandler on April 17, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I feel like our staff are pretty well aligned, but the staff only lead half of the ministries in the church. Our Sunday morning worship, children’s and student ministries are covered by staff, but outreach, small groups, and other ministries for adults are run by elders and volunteers.

    We recently had such bad misalignment with our small groups ministry, the staff had to take that responsibility over from the elder. The elders swap responsibilities so often, and/or new volunteers step into roles with such frequency it feels like we’re always playing catch up getting people understand why we do what we do. …and why don’t do some things other do.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      Hey Sean…sounds like you have a good handle on the situation. I hope you find more stability and consensus around the strategy!

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