ASK PAUL: Hi, I love the six most common meeting processes that you outline in your book. Could you say some more about the process for gaining alignment? Our group often leaves a meeting and then later second-guesses the decision that was made. – Sasha, Rio de Janeiro

Hello Sasha, Rio is one of our favorite cities. Thanks for the question.

Alignment is an important process because higher levels of achievement and job satisfaction can happen when groups talk long enough and openly enough to get everyone on board.

The most common place to check for alignment is whenever you are wrapping up or closing a topic. Stated simply, it’s checking in with the group by asking this question: “Is everyone okay with where we ended up on this?”

Alignment is also one of the conversational processes that supervisors and managers must master. Natural alignment occurs when people have a chance to be deeply involved in the creation of something. As the saying goes, people rarely destroy that which they created. This idea is at the heart of participative management and for some decisions is the best approach. Yet having everyone involved in every decision or building everything from the bottom up is not practical. Still, we need everyone on board, everyone aligned with the new direction or decision. People act consistent with their perspective and when someone is not aligned, they don’t make or keep the commitments required to produce a project or goal.

The foundational idea is that people’s preference is to be aligned with management and the organization. Sure there are a few outliers who will withhold their support because of some historical resentment, but most people want to be aligned. Therefore, if your people are not aligned, there is a good reason.

  1. They simply do not understand or are not clear about what is being proposed. This can either be about the decision or the initiative itself or the way it will be achieved.
  2. They do not see the value in what is being suggested.
  3. There is something in their way that, if it were addressed, they would sign up, such as not having enough time, or seeing that something they care about would be at risk.
  4. There is something missing that, if provided would make a difference in their support, such as allocating additional resources or providing access to technology.

Often, people are not quite sure why they are not excited about a new program or about a decision—it just doesn’t feel right. If you can engage your people in an open conversation that is psychologically safe and where their questions and comments are not resisted but truly heard, they will tell you what you need to change or add to get their support.

Alignment is important to execution. Going deliberately and thoughtfully through this series of questions will reveal what needs to be addressed to reach alignment.

Take care, Paul