When I formed Alignment, Inc. almost 20 years ago, the word (and concept) of ‘alignment’ were, for the most part, reserved for body shops and chiropractors! Yet, successful leaders and my senior leader/CEO friends LOVED the concept as they said THAT is what distinguishes successful leaders, organizations, cultures, and strategies. Of course, I could not agree more. I have been curiously amazed at how so many in my field are now clamoring around this word (and concept).
Though, my company and concepts have been copy written; words cannot be – so I smile with quiet humility as folks glob onto this word and changing their perspective ‘just enough’ so as not to infringe too transparently. As my parents have always taught me: duplication, copycatting, and imitation is the highest form of flattery. Thus, I thought I would share another revision of my concept of alignment, what this means from my perspective, and how individuals and collections of individuals can build alignment.
To me, the secret to fulfillment, growth, never ceasing energy, and unbridled passion is alignment –which to me means: when you know for sure that you’re on course, and doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, fulfilling your soul’s intention… when your life is on a course with its purpose. And as I wrote in my first and second book it is when: “We love what we do, we are good at it, and most importantly, it is tied to something much greater than ourselves.” When this happens – we, and how we contribute, are most certainly at our most powerful.”
My concept of ‘alignment’ was spawned through my own life experiences, personal and professional. From my own personal experiences, alignment within oneself is the first step to harnessing our potential. Once an individual is truly aligned around their purpose – and thus, they are indeed living their life on purpose – this is when and where Divine power is revealed and released. I believe that the most fulfilled and successful individuals are those whose thoughts, feelings, beliefs, gifts, talents, strengths, preferences and desires on how and where to contribute in the world are aligned. Their mind, body, emotions, and spirit are in harmony. There is simply no substitute for total alignment and congruency within a person or leader.
Think about it … when we see a person who truly walks their talk, whose life is a full and total manifestation of their beliefs, and whose profession is one that fully capitalizes and optimizes their gifts and talents – we see a person who is in their groove. One doesn’t have to look too far for examples – they are the ones that would do their work for free and that come to work with a spring in their step. They are the ones that have a passion for their work, an intense desire to make a difference, and are centered and confident in the manner in which they choose to let this unfold. Their personal and professional goals are aligned and they remain committed to doing whatever it takes to fulfill their purpose.
Net: They love what they do. They are good at it. And most importantly, it is tied to something greater than themselves.
When our soul’s purpose is in total alignment with our profession – it shows. It is authentic. It is powerful. That is the power of alignment.
Secondly, although I believe that the purest power of alignment ultimately begins (and ends) within an individual, there is also the power of community – which is alignment among and between collections of individuals. This builds strength in an organization, a culture, and ultimately ALIGNMENT to the organization’s market, constituents, and customer base. When I consult with team, organizations, and companies, those that are in total alignment around a common vision, congruent goals, collaborative metrics and compensation are undisputedly the most successful.
Again, look within your own company or organization. When do you see and experience the most success? Do you experience it when the CEO all the way through the individual contributor level is fully aligned around the common vision? Do you experience it when the goals of the various functional groups are aligned with and between each other? Or is it when they are competing for resources, revenue credit, engaged in land grab tactics, or fighting for increased visibility? We know the answer. It is easy to say and often hard to implement. We get caught up in our personal quests for success, fame, fortune, and status – often at the mercy of the collective community. “Alignment” goes out the window when we are striving for our individual success on the metric board or our own division’s success – and we perceive our individual success to fall outside the trajectory for the company.
Thus, I believe total alignment within a company – horizontally and vertically –toward a common vision is the secret sauce for collective (and individual) success. It goes without saying that no company, organization, or movement is perfect. However, there are a few organizations which I have watched over the years; whose brands, corporate citizenship, vision, culture, rewards, hiring practices, firing disciplines and ongoing development – are in alignment with their overall purpose.
A very short list: The Boys and Girls Club of America, Southwest Airlines, Rotary International, Target Stores, and General Electric. You may not agree with everything about these organizations, however, one thing is for sure: there is alignment from the CEO to the front line around their purpose. Whether it is ‘Helping children reach their Potential’ (BGCA), ‘Service above Self’ (Rotary), ‘Customer service and Company Spirit’ (Southwest), ‘Imagination at Work’ (GE), and ‘Expect more, Pay less’ (Target) – each individual in those respective organizations is marching to the same tune, for a common purpose.
As Margaret Mead so aptly stated many years ago: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I believe these ‘thoughtful committed citizens’ are indeed in alignment. That is the power of community – alignment among and between collections of individuals – whether it is in a business, a country, or a charity – around a common vision and purpose.
When coaching my clients – individuals and communities of individuals (teams, organizations, cultures) here are 3 BASIC steps I recommend to become more aligned in a professional setting:
1. LISTEN. Listen to your heart AND Listen to others. It is vital that we pay attention to that little voice inside. It may come as a question in the middle of the night. Or as crystal clear as a voice in the shower. The voice is your soul – it is your core and it is the pure essence of what and who you are meant to be. Heed it. AND it is equally important to listen to your constituents, your clients, your leaders, your employees. Make NO ASSUMPTIONS (again, I reference one of my favorite books: “The Four Agreements”). We need to meet folks where they are….and no, they are not always where you are! What do they need? What do they want? What is holding them back? How can you support them and be in service to them? These answers lead us to alignment.
2. Find a common ground. Yes, there always is one….sometimes we have to ‘rise up to 50,000 feet’ to find it….yet there is always an underlying universal truth for every issue, challenge, and opportunity. Always. It is our job to jointly determine what that is AND use that as our foundation for our next steps. That is the starting point – and the end point. The hard part is the ‘middle’ – yet, without starting with a common objective – we are destined to drift around in the dark and never reach the ‘end game’.
3. Keep sharing and adjusting. One discussion simply does not cut it. How many of us have had one ground setting discussion prior to launching an initiative or project and ‘think’ we are ‘aligned’. Well…..news flash: things change. Nothing is static OR permanent. Thus, we have to keep talking, sharing status, asking for feedback, and getting and verifying ‘buy-in’. To not do this, assures scope creep, veering off path – and ultimately becoming ‘mis-aligned’. So – just keep talking AND listening. Regroup. Realign. Refresh your collective screen! By responding to change and staying nimble, flexible, and open to adjustment – you (and your team) will be appreciated, respected, and you will ultimately earn support and loyalty.
So, is alignment the secret to authentic individual and collective power? I actually believe authenticity and alignment are synonymous. I also believe there is undeniable power in the authentic congruency of mind, body, heart, spirit, AND mission, vision, priorities, and focus. So, yes, I believe becoming ‘aligned’ with your individual or collective core purpose, and allowing this to manifest into the world through your choices, is the secret to living your life with powerful purpose and purposeful power. And yes – that can and does apply to organizations, companies, charities, and movements. Organizations, teams, and companies who become aligned behind their core vision and purpose will be the one’s setting the pace for others to follow.