Use A Better Dictionary to Create Better Alignment

In strategy and policy development, project chartering and governance, mergers, alliances, customer/supplier relationships, and other such ‘collaborative actions’, we find it essential that participants have a common dictionary for alignment.

The word itself, its synonyms, and related phrases are used regularly by managers and leaders, but with a different meaning, and in ways that don’t actually help ‘getting aligned’.

The dictionary and distinction we use are that:

  • Like-mindedness is to thought as Alignment is to action.
  • Likeminded, or non-likeminded, is how we think about an opinion. Aligned, or misaligned, is how we act towards it.

If someone asked you and I should we go right or left, and I said right but you said left, then we are non-likeminded. And there is nothing wrong with that. It’s our right to have our own opinions and beliefs, and for them to be different from those of others.

In fact, you are taught in business school and leadership training to assemble diverse teams, to ‘benefit from the rich melting pot of thoughts and backgrounds’ they bring. i.e. As a leader, you actually create non-likeminded groups (and should not judge them negatively when they are that way).

Now, having assembled the group, you must convert that ‘non-likeminded thought’ into ‘alignment’ over what action will be taken. Are we going right, going left, going straight ahead, backward, or nowhere?

That ‘judo move’, as we like to call it, is rarely seen in a leader’s job description, but it’s an implicit capability for which you are being judged every day.

So when working with others, try explaining this dictionary to them – take the tension out of being non-likeminded so they can engage better in forming endorsed actions.

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