Alignment – Out of the Auto Shop and Into the Office
Last time you got your car tuned up, the mechanic probably talked to you about alignment. If you want to get the most performance out of your car, it’s important that your tires are all moving in the same direction and working together. Turns out that what is true for cars is also true for effective business communication. Business relationships will be most successful when everyone is aligned and moving in the same direction toward a mutual goal.
Alignment goes beyond just improving your communication skills or trying a new listening technique. Truly effective communication, whether it’s for business or some other interaction where you and others are working to create the best outcome, begins with alignment.
We Are All Inter-Connected
Here’s another way to look at it: generally we go about our own business, trying to achieve our personal results. We forget how inter-connected we are with other people. Our interconnections limit how far we can get toward our own desired result. With alignment, we share the same vision with our interconnected partners. We are much more likely to reach the desired outcome. Alignment opens the way for greater success and mutual satisfaction.
Start with Personal Alignment
The first step to creating alignment with someone else, is identifying, and expressing, what you feel is most important to you about the outcome you want. Here is where you’ll need to figure out the underlying values that support the outcome you hope for. Maybe you would like people in the office to show up 15 minutes before the start of a meeting. Searching for the hidden value might make you realize that consideration is very important to you, or you maybe you highly value preparedness. Don’t forget, no matter what the desired outcome, underneath something you value is motivating you to want that outcome.
Aligning with Others
Now that you recognize your own underlying values, you need to figure out what the other person or the group values. This is a discovery process so start by expressing the values you’ve realized are critical to you in your work environment. Find out how important those things are to the other people involved. Would your partner or partners be willing to search for ways to create that kind of environment? In the process of aligning your values, you are creating a shared vision. If you state your shared vision it might be something like increasing effectiveness, or enhancing productivity or working together more harmoniously. When you have defined your shared vision, you can start to discuss strategies to achieve the desired results.
Things to Remember for the Alignment Discussion:
Try to keep the alignment conversation as action-free as possible. This is a beginning phase, so you might want to start by agreeing with the other person that you will not get bogged down with the specifics of what you want or how you’re going to get what you want.
Once your shared vision is established, you will have plenty of time to discuss how to reach your goals. Before you begin, agree that talking about the failures of the past isn’t effective during this phase. (Examining the past can be useful because it might help you to understand values that may have been lacking, but avoid assigning fault or using it to justify your skepticism.)
Here are some other valuable pieces to add to the conversation:
A commitment to stay away from negative criticism or judgments;
An openness to explore strategies that you both can agree on;
An agreement to celebrate all wins that result from this conversation.
Now that you are sharing the same vision and you’re working toward the same outcome, the big picture becomes clear. Alignment makes it easier to produces results that are enjoyable for everyone.
With a shared vision, everyone will be traveling along the road of cooperation and teamwork with far fewer potholes than you encountered before. Alignment leads to increased productivity and result in rewarding outcomes for everyone involved.
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