Alignment between people is a powerful dynamic. When it exists, there is strategic and emotional engagement. This engagement enables important work to progress. When it’s missing, wheels grind and progress slows. However, alignment is not a “one and done” affair. Alignment between partners, of any type, is an ongoing dynamic that requires attention and intention.
Here are six actions you can take to increase alignment:
1. Expect misalignment — Yep, expect that you and your partners or teammates will misalign. It’s going to happen. With all of our biases and misinterpretations of moments, it’s a wonder we humans can align around anything. But we can. However, don’t expect to stay aligned. The daily pressures and miscommunications between us create misalignments. Don’t freak out when you’re misaligned. It happens. When you notice misalignment, move to the next step.
2. Treat misalignment as a cue that you’ve surfaced something important — Emotional and strategic mismatches are like neon signs. They reveal to you that you’ve bumped into a significant situation or idea. During a misalignment, it’s easy to let frustration reign. We have to reframe the misalignment as a signal of sorts. The mismatch between colleagues or partners invites a slower pace to explore what could be motivating the misalignment.
3. Explore the misalignment and name it — Honest and compassionate dialogue will enable you to explore the misalignment. You have to have both candor and compassion. If you bring one of the two dynamics, but not both, the conversation won’t lead to alignment. Honesty without compassion leaves us reeling. And compassion without honesty leaves us clueless. As you explore the misalignment, you’ll likely uncover what is driving it. Once you’ve found the “driver” give it a name. Naming the driver of the misalignment will make it real and create ownership for the issue.
4. Turn the conversation and your collective intention toward creating a shared view– Identifying the misalignment allows us to realign. This step is critical. Once we’ve identified the misalignment (and named it), then we must turn our intention and action toward realignment. At the heart of realignment is a shared view. A shared view doesn’t negate individual differences. Rather, a shared view is a place where individual views overlap for the sake of the mission. Make finding (or re-finding) that shared view your intention.
5. Monitor emotional reconnection — Emotional re-regulation is another sign of realignment. Remember misalignment is a strategic and emotional mismatch with another person (or group). When misaligned, we are often emotionally out of sorts. As we seek to realign, it’s important to monitor our emotional state. As we re-regulate and reinvest emotionally in the person, project or situation, it’s a clue that alignment has been achieved.
6. Name the shared view — Once we’ve realigned, it can be helpful to name the realignment. This increases the likelihood that we will remember the insight we’ve achieved. Assign a word or phrase to the realignment and use it like a mantra to keep you aligned. Of course, you won’t stay aligned. Right? And when you lose alignment go back to number one.