Have you ever hit a pothole and knocked your car out of alignment? You know it immediately, right? The car starts pulling off course and the steering wheel vibrates. You can tell it’s not OK by the way it feels. You also know, the longer you drive it that way the worse it gets.
It’s similar with humans. When we get out of alignment, compared to our core beliefs, values, mission or even goals, there are immediate signals. Initially, there’s a small-ish physical sensation – a stomach flip or increased heart rate, for example. Eventually the symptoms get more severe and become apparent to others, through our emotions. Anxiety, fatigue, short temper, inertia, and confusion are some of the signs you are trying to navigate while out of personal alignment.
Just like with the car, we can always tell by the way we feel. Also like the car, the longer we ignore a misalignment, the more damaging it becomes – for ourselves and the people around us.
As I sit here typing, I can easily recall the times I’ve ignored the warning signs of misalignment. Actually, I can still feel them. They don’t feel good.
If you wondering what “out of alignment” means, let me give you a personal example:
It was more than fifteen years ago, but I still remember how it felt looking into the faces of my fantastic team of managers, as I struggled to convince them the big changes about to come would be OK. “We’ll work through this, everyone will be fine. Nothing bad has happened.” Technically my words were completely true. But in my heart, I knew what was coming was in significant opposition to the mission we had crafted and implemented, our values relative to why and how we did what we did, and our mutual goals. The things that united us, made us a great team, and fueled our success, would indeed be gone.
Rest assured, what was coming was not illegal or immoral. Everything was within the purview of well-intended corporate decisions, made with the hopes of gaining efficiencies and consistencies nationwide. It just wasn’t what any of us signed up for – it wasn’t aligned with why we chose our particular specialties, and became experts in our field. I worried about my team and their staffs. How much of their professional satisfaction would they sacrifice to succeed within the new parameters?
I spent many hours practicing how to not waiver on that day, but I was rehearsing something I didn’t believe. In truth, I had the same concerns as my team. Still, I convinced myself it was my duty ignore my concerns and be compelling.
Over the next several months, we struggled and I stayed on the “convincing” course. We tried hanging on to pieces of our work that fueled our passion, and we tried abandoning them altogether, but every week got harder. In fact, the more I tried to steer in opposition to my core mission, values, and goals, the bumpier, more uncomfortable, and more contentious things got.
It’s been many years since my all-time lowest professional-emotional period, and I’ve given a lot of thought to what I could have done differently during that tumultuous time. What would have made it less stressful for me and my team? The answer is alignment…
What I realized, and thankfully learned from, is operating out of alignment doesn’t work. I thought I was doing what was expected of me – doing what it took to tow the company line. My big ole pothole, however, was abandoning who I am, at my core, in doing so.
Do you see where my real disconnect was?
The misalignment wasn’t the company deciding to shift directions and me not liking it, it was how I responded to it. I:
- Ignored my internal signals – the first sign I was heading off course
- Stopped communicating openly and honestly, hiding my concerns and shutting down the concerns of my team
- Avoided important clarifying opportunities, with my team, peers, and more senior executives
- Turned off my natural instincts to connect, understand, empathize, and problem solve
The disconnect was between my core beliefs as a leader and what I was saying and doing on the job. The alignment adjustment needed was between me and me. Just like the wobbly tires and vibrating steering wheel of the car, it only got worse the longer I ignored it.
Are you feeling out of sorts? Revisit your core principles and check your alignment. There’s still time to adjust before damage is done.
Want to learn more about how to lead in alignment, with less stress, more clarity, and better results? Contact us today for a free consultation and take steps toward your re-alignment.