How to Revolutionize Your One-on-One Meetings: Align
If you have been following the three-step process in the last two blogs for revolutionizing your one-on-one meetings, then you have listened well; you have built genuinely; now it’s time to align. Align means that we harmonize our potentially different expectations and values, and agree to come together as one.
You’ll remember from step one, Listen, that the majority of our engagement in one-on-one meetings should be listening—over 50% in most cases. It is also crucial that we consistently Build others up when we meet with them. Let’s talk about the third step today, which is to Align. Below, are several principles to keep in mind when it comes to aligning values and expectations.
Don’t Listen and Build, Just So You Can Align
Many times, leaders focus on the areas that need aligning as the thrust of the agenda in these meetings. Listening to people and building them up are considered “fluff” by some—merely necessary politeness and professional decorum, at best. But that should not be the case.
A common method for confronting tough issues is the Sandwich Technique. You start with something positive, place the difficult matters in the middle, and end with something positive. While this is not a bad tool, I tend to struggle with the premise behind this approach. To me, this technique implies that the key message I wish to express is bad, so I’ll place it in between the “fluff” in order to soften the blow. My point here, is that what many consider to be “fluff” should actually be the heart of our communication. Only when we consistently communicate openly with our people will the aligning become easy and effective.
Thriving relationships center around listening and building, not correcting and aligning. If your motivation for listening and building is only to set the stage for correcting, neither your meetings nor your relationships will be successful. Trust me on this, when you make listening and building the core reasons behind your meetings, and a cornerstone of your relationships, then aligning becomes a relatively small, comfortable, and often seamless aspect of your meetings.
Think Align, Not Correct
I want to encourage you to think less about correcting people and more about aligning with people. As the leader, when you put yourself in the position of constantly correcting others, it can quickly feel like a school teacher scolding a child. Rather, let us work with our people to align ourselves through dialogue as partners.
I love personal growth. But, when someone sits me down to correct me, I don’t like it much. On the other hand, if someone has a dialogue with me so we can align our views, I could do that for hours. This approach not only helps the person who is hearing the message to receive it and willingly comply, it also reduces stress over the conversation for the leader.
You know those conversations we dread, as leaders… Sometimes we worry about them for days at a time. However, when we approach them from the angle of aligning versus correcting, we will experience much less anxiety. Here is another way of thinking about it: have an open dialogue with your equal partner. When you think of your people as partners, regardless of their position, there will be less tension and much more willingness to come together.
Don’t Ignore What Needs to be Aligned
Many times, in the name of peace, or due to a lack of skill to tackle sensitive subjects, leaders leave tough issues unaddressed. We hope they will just go away, though they very rarely do. Most of the time, problems will rise to the surface. Only then, they are even bigger, and dealing with them takes even more of an emotional toll. This is why it is vital that we make aligning with people an important part of every meeting. If we create an atmosphere where we are free to talk about any thing at any time, then sensitive subjects can be handled comfortably.
Align Early, Align Often
Ee experience drama in our relationships when things are left unaligned for too long. Align early means that as soon as you notice something is not agreeable to both parties, we must have a mechanism in place that can be activated to remedy the situation—immediately or as soon as possible.
This point can get tricky because while we should wait for the right timing to address issues, we shouldn’t use waiting as an excuse to avoid what needs our attention. With over 90% of the issues I face, I make it a priority to address them with the people I lead within the first twenty-four hours. On less pressing matters, I may wait a week, simply because I have weekly meetings with the people I work with.
Align Gently, but Clearly
The key to being clear with others is that we are clear with ourselves. We need to decide beforehand what our expectations are, and how we intend to work out the details with others. For instance, you may have an employee who is not adequately documenting important information about your clients. One approach is to blurt out your expectation. A better way is to open a dialogue with your employee, in which you clearly identify the problem, and seek to understand how you could support them in resolving the situation. Always be gentle. Always try to understand. But don’t let gentleness muddle clarity.
Align the Big and Small Areas
We need to align our values, visions, and dreams. These are very important, arguably more important than anything else. However, we must also have systems in place to deal with daily tasks, expectations, and boundaries.
In the best relationships I have, aligning happens seamlessly. Usually as we are listening to each other, building each other up, and discussing the issues at hand, everything naturally begins to line up. In the event that they don’t, either I or the other person has to interject, “Excuse me, I think we need to align here.” Build your relationships to be so strong that you are not afraid or anxious to do that when needed.
So in conclusion to these three articles, let’s stop thinking about our one-on-one meetings as a time when we tell people what to do or how to correct their mistakes. Rather, let’s think about these times together as an opportunity to listen to people’s hearts, build their confidence, and bring into alignment our differing views.
Actionable Step: Start taking mental notes of which areas you need to come into alignment with the people you work with. Schedule time to meet regularly, and make aligning part of the conversation.
About me: I switched to an Apple computer a few years ago, a decision that I recommend to anyone who can get an Apple computer. I currently use a MacBook Pro.
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