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Creating Greater Alignment Among Managers

Collaboration
Impact
Team Processes

21 May, 2021

José Caldeira
José Caldeira

VP of Engineering Success at Athenian

José Caldeira, VP of Engineering at OutSystems, details how he created greater alignment among his managers by pairing them up, making them buddies, and doing full transparent 360 feedback.

Problem

For someone who manages multiple teams, creating alignment among first-line managers becomes a top priority. However, first-line managers often lack a sense of belonging to the same tribe. If you ask any of them which is their team, they will refer to a team they manage and their direct reports. To create greater alignment, I should instill in them a sense of belonging to a team of their fellow managers.

At first, I was not forcing that connection because I expected people to bond with their peers and work together. But, the catch is that managers are working directly with their reports, not other managers. Because of that, it’s easy for them not to be aligned and to have each one of the managers moving in its own direction. That creates a big sense of movement, but it doesn’t create impact. I had to create opportunities for managers to connect more and start working together.

Actions taken

Every time a person becomes a new manager, I would assign them a buddy as part of their onboarding. I would pair them up and task them to work on the same project together. One person would be a designated responsible individual (DRI) and the other one, their secondary. They would work together, but more importantly, they would get to know each other better. Getting to know a person better -- how they approach challenges or address problems -- is fundamental for ensuring long-term alignment.

Also, we would do full transparent 360 feedback quarterly. Every manager would give feedback on their peers in full public view. They would be all sitting together with a blank sheet of paper in front of them. After writing their feedback down, they would swap papers, add new feedback, and circulate papers until everyone would leave their feedback on everyone else. At any given moment, one could see what someone else has written and who agrees or disagrees with it. Once a person would get back their sheet of paper, they could discuss the feedback they received. For example, person A could suggest that you should improve your communication skills, but person B would disagree.

By creating a buddy support system, pairing up people together to work on joint projects, and doing full transparent 360 feedback, I was able to evoke a sense of belonging and create alignment. Once you create that, you should ensure that the whole team (of first-line managers) should be working in the same direction.

As leaders of their teams, they would drive those teams in a certain direction. If you cannot align them in that direction, your power as their boss will be faltered, and you won’t be able to impact the whole organization. Therefore, alignment is a prerequisite that your managers will pass along the same message and that the team’s OKRs will be aligned with the company’s OKRs.

Lessons learned

  • The further you are from the ground, the more you will rely on other people to do things. Therefore, you will need the whole organization to be pushing in the same direction to maximize the impact. -There is a metaphor by Elon Musk that illustrates the problem vividly. A vector has its x- and y-axis. If you think of a first-time manager as a vector, you will see that each of them has the capacity to move a team into the x- or y-direction. According to Musk, the closer you can get your vectors to align with the direction you want to move forward, the faster you will move forward. The role of managers is to push for moving into the (your) intended direction.

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