They may sound like jargon, but vertical and horizontal alignment are really important factors to get right if you want your business to flourish.
If you’re a founder whose company’s off to a kicking start, it’s easy to be swept along on the tide of success in a buzz of excitement and energy.
Your small loyal team feels the same, excited to be playing a part in these waves of growth. Then one day something changes.
You can’t pinpoint the what, why, when, where or how it happened; you just know that all you did this week was solve problems and firefight your way through and now you think about it, it was like that last week too. And the week before.
You’ve been so focused on maintaining those initial waves of business growth, that now it’s all about spinning plates and trying to meet the demand you and your team have created.
And plate-spinning leads to the same outcome every time – exhaustion and demotivation, traits that do nothing to help grow the business. How can you be strategic when you feel like a drained battery?
Back into line through the honesty lens
This is such a familiar pattern that we see time and again in our work with female entrepreneurs. It’s called misalignment and is the point at which the fun is sucked out of everything.
When your long hours are powered by alignment to what you truly love and believe, as they are at the beginning, you feel energised. The blood, sweat and tears are part of the challenge.
Misalignment is the opposite of alignment. It’s when an area of your business isn’t functioning as it should, and is having a domino effect on everything else.
In our book The Wyseway, we show you how to identify this using proven tools that work. We depict a fictional character called Sofia, a founder who’s so focused on increasing sales that her mind has been taken off her purpose. Her company feels chaotic, everything sounds like it’s important and she often doesn’t realise that she has projects and people with contradictory goals.
The Wyseway outlines the steps to rediscover alignment, balance and joy, and to avoid plate-spinning. More importantly, it will help you get your team on side and motivated once more.
It starts by taking a long hard look at your business through an honesty lens.
Alignment and purpose: bedfellows in business success
First, let’s understand what alignment is and its relationship to purpose. It’s the concept of having different elements in agreement or alliance – working together towards a shared purpose.
Purpose underpins alignment and vice versa. When purpose is clear enough so everyone understands it, alignment follows. We talk about two important areas that require alignment:
- The four areas of growth (drivers) as set out in the Powerball (see below), and
- The organisational capabilities that support each business growth phase.
Sofia has forgotten that the power of her people was instrumental to her first waves of business growth. As her company has grown she hasn’t changed the internal structures and processes other than to add more sales and marketing people in a haphazard way.
Her long-standing employees, who know her product inside out, feel overlooked and undervalued. Their own workload has increased to meet demand and they’re starting to feel demoralised.
Power down problems with the Powerball
The Powerball is a tool that we developed to help entrepreneurs find alignment. It lists the four areas or ‘growth drivers’ for business success: team, business, customers and purpose. You need to aim for two kinds of alignment:
- Vertical alignment, within each growth driver (for example, what you say is your purpose is really what you’re measuring and celebrating)
- Horizontal alignment, where each growth driver reflects and supports the others (for example, a company that says they value sustainability and social justice but uses suppliers who profit from poor labour or environmental standards is horizontally misaligned between purpose and team drivers).
In Sofia’s case, the fact her company’s processes haven’t changed to accommodate growth means her business driver is misaligned. And the manner in which she’s added new staff means her team driver is also misaligned.
Alignment in all areas helps a company be purpose-led which results in happier teams and better growth. Don’t take our word for it. A study by Oxford University’s Said Business School found companies are 13% more productive when their employees feel happy.
You became an entrepreneur for fulfillment, joy and a sense of freedom to live how you want to live. If you’d wanted to spin plates for a living, you’d have joined a circus.
Wyseminds helps female entrepreneurs achieve the growth they want. The Wyseway is available in the Wyseminds shop or you can sign up to our support programme Your Journey for a copy.