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Talent Management Goal Planning & Alignment Employee Engagement Performance Management

How Employee Misalignment is like Pushing a Car Uphill in the Wrong Direction

March 18, 2014
3 min read
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We talk a lot about goal alignment in the ClearCompany office. If you’ve ever been on a team working hard toward a commonly understood goal, you’ve experienced first-hand the electric energy of a unified team. As a manager, my job is to keep the team united so their energy is pointed in the right direction. But what happens when you have a team working toward the wrong goal?

A few weeks ago a few coworkers and I hopped in the car and drove to Vermont for a bit of skiing. About 5 miles from our destination, the snow-covered road sloped aggressively up a large hill. The car almost made it, but with about a quarter mile left from the top, the tires just couldn’t get enough traction to make it. Two of us braved the -20 degree weather to push the car the rest of the way.

It was, without a doubt, one of the most miserable quarter miles I’ve ever traveled. My hands and ears were numb, my feet slipped in the snow and my lungs burned from the cold air. But as I pushed side by side with our Chief Technology Officer, I was oddly content. We were making progress! So close to our destination! Nothing could stop us! Finally, we crested the hill and returned to the car, frozen but victorious. It wasn’t until then that we thought to look at the map. It turns out we had missed the turn at the bottom of the hill. Yes, we pushed a car a quarter mile uphill in -20 degree weather going the wrong direction.

Fortunately, this debacle didn’t cost us much besides our pride (and - temporarily - the ability to feel our extremities), but these types of mistakes can happen in the workplace at an exorbitant cost. Hard work isn’t worth much when it’s in the wrong direction. The costs don’t stop at wasted labor, they can run far deeper in terms of employee morale.

How would you feel if you gave your all on a project, only to find out it was unnecessary? It’s safe to say you wouldn’t be quite so eager to throw yourself into the next big project that came along. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how employee disengagement can take root.
Effective goal alignment is an organization’s best defense against employee disengagement. When an employee can visualize their progress, and understand how that progress contributes to the success of their team or company, they are not only more productive, but also more engaged.

Using our own goal alignment software means I never have to worry about leading a misaligned team, or misunderstanding the goals of my manager. One of my favorite features of our software is cascading goals. On a daily basis I can log in and see that everyone’s current tasks and projects are connected from the CEO all the way down to the interns.

As a manager this is an enormous relief. When I don’t have to worry what goals my team is working toward, I can spend my time helping them figure out how to successfully meet them. Now if only I could find a way to get my coworkers to stop teasing me for pushing a car uphill in the wrong direction …

IMAGE: Flickr user Christian Bortes

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