I had the opportunity to meet with Travis Ogden, CEO of Isagenix International, at their spectacular World Headquarters in Gilbert, Arizona. Isagenix is a health and wellness company that has been around for 17 years. They help people transform their lives, physically or financially depending on what their goals are, and empower them to live happier and healthier lives. Isagenix has eight offices and does business in 20 countries around the world with about 800 employees. This is what Travis had to say about alignment.
What does Alignment mean for you and why is it important?
Alignment means everybody in the organization understands what the goal is and can focus their daily efforts with that goal in mind so that they are moving in the same direction.
Alignment is important because although we have 800 employees, we have nearly 600,000 people around the world consuming our products, and some of those customers are also building an independent business opportunity selling our products. Getting all of those people moving in the same direction enables us to get much greater results than if everybody is moving in different directions and pursuing their own belief of where we should go. When you get everyone to work together as a team you are much more powerful, as you can achieve a lot more together than independently.
When parts of your organization are misaligned, what is the impact on results? What do you observe?
Typically if a project is failing, taking too long or not meeting milestones, that's a sign that there's misalignment. That could be from team members misinterpreting the scope or somehow believing there is a different end goal in mind. In some large organizations you can develop layers of bureaucracy that don't need to be there, and that slows things down. Another form of misalignment that slows things down is sometimes employees may be empowered to get something done in their role, but they have layers of approval put on top of them that prevent them from doing it.
What are some things you do to drive alignments throughout?
The first thing we do is figure out where we are going as an organization. We meet as an executive leadership team several times a year to discuss our strategic direction. Sometimes it is an offsite meeting and we spend a half day or full day just brainstorming the status of the company, consumer preferences and trends to make sure that where we're going is relevant and needed.
After we develop our strategic direction we will talk to our VPs and general managers around the world to get their feedback and make some tweaks. We then communicate the strategy to the rest of our employees and our independent salesforce, who we call “associates.” We continue to reinforce it because people will sometimes forget the message if you just tell them once.
We reinforce that message to create alignment by having quarterly “What Drives Us” meetings for all employees and quarterly “Power of Purpose” meetings for the leadership of the company. We remind everyone about the strategy and how we are tracking against it. We also provide the employees a card every year with the strategy printed on it so they can keep it at their desk, where it is always front and center.
Since we are an international company we create video messages and send them out to the general managers who are located around the world so they can communicate to their staff. We also use an internal communication tool, Yammer, that allows us to do pulse surveys, make announcements, solicit feedback and give praise.
How do you drive culture?
We have our 12 core values. Every conference room in our company is named after a value, so anytime people go into a meeting they will see one of our values. Two key values are “‘fun” and “family,” and we have launched some different employee initiatives around them. For example, in December we had a Family Fun Festival with food trucks, games, music, face painting, a sketch artist, a bounce house, and a petting zoo. We also implemented some benefits in the past few years to enhance work-life balance for people. Many of our employees have families, so we added paid parental leave for eligible full- and part-time employees, increased vacation time so full-time employees have at least three weeks of paid vacation per year, and added a work-from home program so eligible employees can work from home for up to three days per month, among other benefits.
Culture is an intangible thing that develops over time. It is difficult to build up, and it has to come from the top down. Our founders and owners built this company on integrity and doing the right thing, and they are great about living the culture.
How do you drive leadership development?
Our quarterly leadership meetings are an opportunity for us to provide training for managers or directors who may not have a lot of hands-on experience yet with leadership, so we will bring in outside speakers and authors to provide some education and training. We also provide many opportunities in the organization to help people succeed, including trainings by our Human Resources team and outside leadership development programs.
Is culture, leadership or strategy the most challenging to drive?
I think culture is the most challenging because it is a bit nebulous and has to be built up over time, similar to building trust with someone. It takes years and years and, just like trust, it can be gone in an instant. It is for this reason you have to safeguard culture and make sure you are not doing something that erodes it. It is easy to take culture for granted, but it is very important.
I define culture as how people feel about the company, which includes buying in to why the company exists and the value it adds to the world, as well as feeling respected, being proud, and getting excited to engage in what we are trying to accomplish.
What advice would you give a business leader who is driving strategy, culture or leadership?
Driving these things can be daunting. My advice is to start where you are at and do something, and let it build from there. Be willing to put yourself out there to get the process started if needed. You will be surprised to see how it builds upon itself and evolves as you draw strength from those around you.
Vince Lombardi: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” It speaks to the fact that as we take action and try to improve ourselves and our organization, amazing things happen.
Ali Parnian is the president of Execute to Win, a business writer and leadership coach. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.