Getting alignment with others can be something that you either look forward to or dread depending our your personality and the personality of the person that you need to interact with. Honestly, depending on the day and tasks ahead you can fall into both categories in a matter of hours. I know that I sometimes feel the same excitement and dread at the same time as well on occasion.
No matter whether you love to work with a person or a group or you just don’t get along with someone else, it’s essential to arrive at some shared alignment in order to be effective in meeting your goals and the shared goals of the team.
Understand your audience
One of the first steps to gaining alignment on a project, task, or strategy is to understand your audience. Solidifying your understanding of your audience will smooth out the process if done well and will throw in all kinds of roadblocks and frustration if not accounted for properly. Here are some tips to better connect with them as you gain alignment with others:
What is their communication preference? Get a good understanding of how the person performs to receive their communication and how they best process information. In one of my regular team meetings, I have a great associate that needs to see a visual to understand the details of where we are going. Others prefer to talk it out together.
Who really needs to be there? Sometimes a leader will say that they want to be involved only to later learn that someone else on their team is the right person. Other times the opposite is true. They delegate the meeting out, only to ask you for updates and add last-minute additions and preferences. Let the leader know your observations and ask for further clarification if you see a misalignment in this area. It’s not your job to fix the dynamics of another team, but you should work with them to get the right person in the proverbial seat to help get the alignment that you need.
What level of involvement do they want? This is where you may have some tension, especially if you are one to be agile and quick to act while another party wants to have oversight or be heavily involved in the decision-making process. Be willing to compromise here to the best of your ability and ask your leader for guidance if you are struggling in this area. Honor the person’s role and avoid turning the tension into something personal. At the end of the day, you likely want what’s best for the team and organization.
Be aware of your own work preferences and tendencies
We all have personal twerks about us and many of those will help or hurt you as you try to gain alignment with others. For me, when leading meetings, I have a tendency not to say much. I want to hear from others and I want them to feel like they are heard and have a voice on the item that we are all aligning on. This certainly helps us get to an agreed-upon solution faster.
I also have a tendency to pour in my focus and effort to knock out a project very quickly by myself. As a result of that speed and efficiency, I will sometimes neglect to include others or just give them a high-level status of what I am working on. Sometimes it’s not a problem, and other times I have to go back and spend time getting a party up to speed or even make changes based on feedback.
Having a good understanding of your preferences in work style and how you function and communicate to others will help you see how you need to adapt your style or capitalize on your strength.
Make the success about others and not yourself
It’s a great feeling to know that you accomplished something that will greatly impact others in a good way. Remember that alignment has everything to do with others and nothing to do with yourself. As a young leader, I would see these accomplishments as personal wins, I got what I wanted. As I matured, I saw the joy of shared success and seeing others celebrate the win just as much, if not more than me.
Take the personal drive for a win out of the equation and be sure to recognize and celebrate the shared success as you gain alignment with others.
The bigger the team and company, the bigger the need
If you are an entrepreneur leading a small team, or maybe you are a team of one…. there’s not much alignment needed, right? Look at yourself in the mirror, make your decision and move towards the goal! As the team grows, and the physical footprint of the company grows, so does the need for alignment.
For example, the need for alignment is critical to have any kind of success at a $100 Billion company. The complexity to gain that alignment can be very challenging. You may find yourself in an organization so big that you don’t even know who the stakeholders are perhaps until it’s too late. In large organizations, take the time to understand the playing field and who the players and key stakeholders are. The strength of your networking will pay off here as you connect with others to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table. Some tips as you work to gain alignment in large organizations include:
Be willing to slow down. Get everyone up to speed and include them on the journey. the larger the organization the more people will likely need to be involved.
Compromise when possible. Your priorities may not be the same as others, and in large organizations, it’s likely someone that you need to align with will not share the same priority or perspective as you. Remember the larger goal and be willing to adapt your plan and strategy for others.
As you personally gain more authority and influence, your need to gain alignment instead of going at it alone will increase as well. Remember to include others, adapt to others’ needs, and share the success together. You’ll be an effective leader that successfully impacts more people than ever before.
Being suddenly thrown under the proverbial bus is one of the worst feelings there is in a working relationship. It’s the sense of being betrayed by someone that you likely had some level of trust built with for their own gain. Perhaps you were blamed for something that you didn’t do, or they broke your confidence to share sensitive info, or perhaps they embarrassed you in front of others to make themselves look better. Whatever the reason, you’ve likely experienced it a time or two or you will most certainly experience it as you continue your professional journey.
You’ve been thrown under the bus, now what?
The thing about being thrown under the bus is that it always comes unexpectedly and suddenly. Perhaps you align with your work partner only for them to say that they totally disagree with your position after reading the room. That initial sting can send you swirling in many different mental directions at one time.
In the moment:
Let your EQ save you: This is another great work example where a strong EQ (EQ series starting at Ep 145) will swoop in and save you from any further damage. Do your best to instantly react, especially in a public setting. Let the emotions wash through you and then begin to react in a way that reflects well on you. In some situations, you may only have a few seconds while other times, you’ll have more than enough time.
Save face by taking the high road. It’s ok to say that whatever the other person said or did was a surprise to you and that you need some time to process and reflect. Offering the take the conversation offline in a meeting environment can take the heat off for now and keep the meeting moving forward as well.
After the incident:
Accept that this has happened and move forward: It can be hard to obsess about the incident… besides, you’ve likely been wronged and it can feel very personal as you continue to unpack in your mind how everything unfolded. At the end of the day, there is nothing that can be done to take the incident back. It happened. Mentally acknowledge that it happened, remind yourself that it does not lower the value that you see in yourself as a person, and begin to move to the next steps for closure and growth.
Get to the truth and root of the incident: Instead, of trying to find solace and validation with others, approach the other person who threw you under the bus after the incident and ask what happened. It’s fair for you to seek clarity and understanding of the reasoning behind their decision. Be mentally prepared because this conversation can go many different ways:
They may reveal their true colors and were never an ally to begin with
They may have acted impulsively and are regretful
They may not have the self-awareness to even realize what they did was wrong and hurtful
Don’t retaliate: It may be tempting to volley back resentment and anger or even worse, plot your revenge against the other person. Remember your values (EP 357 EP 358) and avoid this at all costs. You’ll have more productive ways to deal with the person based on the things that you learned from the experience.
Learn and grow from the experience
The shock of a break in trust can be difficult to overcome, in fact, it’s one of our highest searched subjects on the internet. Trust is certainly one of the lessons that I learn during the times that someone has thrown me under the bus – specifically how far my trust can go with the other person going forward. I would rarely fully write the person off, but I certainly reframed the relationship and became much more mindful of what I said or did around the person.
I’ve had others share with me that the lesson that they learned is that they trusted others too much. While I get where the person is coming from with this kind of statement, my experience has shown me that that kind of attitude and become the building block to a fundamental change in their leadership behavior in a negative way. You can’t stop trusting others because you’ve been burned.
Another way to gain insight from being thrown under the bus is to reflect back and understand some of the behaviors that may have been indicators that the person was capable of what they did. Some of those include:
Trying to take credit for things that they did not do
A lack of reciprocating information about themselves
A lack of showing vulnerability in their role
Statements like “It’s not personal”
Being thrown under the bus is never fun and can really hurt, especially if it comes from a friend or close colleague. Represent yourself well during the stinging moment, seek clarity, learn from the incident and move forward. You’ll build a character trait that will serve you well as you continue on your professional journey.
I have built a career by tieing my work ethics, leadership priorities, and expectations around company values. Sometimes it was easy as others were aligned, to begin with, sometimes I was a hero as I entered a bad culture that desperately wanted change, and other times I was painted as the villain as I asked others to embrace change and held people accountable to how they did their work.
Living the Values at your organization isn’t always easy, but it certainly is rewarding long term and had always helped me accelerate my own career opportunities along the way.
Learn the Values and their place in the organization
When it comes to your organization’s values, dig in and get an understanding of what they are. The popular way that many companies express their values these are often through single words (empowerment, creativity, trust, service, etc). Although 1 or 2-word values are easier to remember, they really don’t say much or give real clarity to what they mean. Look for supporting documentation that unpacks what each one means to get a true sense of what the organization stands for.
Once you gain that understanding, commit them to memory and look at how the company integrates (or doesn’t) the Values into programming, pay practices, and accountability. In other words, do they truly stand on their Values, or are they something that people look at during their orientation and never revisit? Regardless of which side your company falls in putting its Values into action, understanding and aligning to the Values will help you stand out and accelerate your career.
Make the Values your calling card
Forward-thinking companies will often refer to work that you accomplish in two ways: The What – Your level of performance as it relates to your job description and The How – How you accomplish your goals. It’s always encouraging to see companies that go all-in on the how with some even going as far as to say that they are equally important in evaluating their people and their ability to do more on the team.
The How is all about Living the Values. As you continue to lean into how you carry yourself and your alignment with the company’s overall values, you’ll begin to build a reputation, and a very good one, that then becomes your calling card. People know what you expect when you enter the room and the high standard that you bring with you and those that you influence.
Living the Values accelerates your career
If you put individuals side-by-side that are equally skilled, what would make you choose one over the other? If you’ve got a hiring leader that is worth following, they will always choose the person that is strong in how they get their work done. Here are some ways that Living the Values accelerates your career.
You build stronger working relationships: It doesn’t matter whether you are an introvert or an extravert, a person that Lives the Values in the workplace will always have better relationships than someone that does not. You’ll be known as a partner, colleague, and friend to an ever-growing extended network across the organization. If you’ve company doesn’t emphasize your Values as it should, then people may not make the connection, but they will know that there is something different about you and that they just enjoy being around and working with you. Your life will be easier as you have people with different skills to help support you and your work that relies on others’ involvement will be easier to arrive at positive conclusions.
You’ll likely become a connector for others: It’s been said that a person that is a connector (Someone who makes networking connections for others) advances the quickest in an organization. it’s one thing to develop people in a silo, and quite a different thing to connect people together in order to make their work-life more effective or even to help them advance their own journey.
The strength here is from leveraging those working relationships in a way that brings value to everyone. Your values will lead you to do this in an unselfish way. You’ll give away great talent for the betterment of the organization, it will help keep any leadership ego in check, and you’ll naturally lead in a more servant leadership-like way. (EP 131 Characteristics of Servant Leadership & EP 132 Servant Leadership in Action for more)
You will be a role model for others to follow: I love being a culture champion. It’s so rewarding to see how teams blossom and thrive as they collectively embrace a shared positive culture. As I grew in my journey from an individual contributor to a leader of many, I took pride in being able to be a role model for others and influencing change for the better.
If you are in a tough culture, be a beacon of light for others by how you lead yourself. If you lead others, model the behaviors that you expect of them. When you say to them to Live the Values, they need to see what that looks like and means in the real working world. Many people strive to leave a lasting legacy behind them. It’s a sense of larger purpose in what we do. You can accomplish that in a larger and more meaningful way as you model those values for others to follow.
You’ll be given more influence and responsibility: Those that lead themselves by the company’s values will almost always attract more influence power and additional responsibility. This is a great way for you to have a chance to shine in an authentic way that can help others.
For those Baton Carriers that are in their sweet spot and don’t want to (and shouldn’t) continue advancing, know that more influence and responsibility is a good thing for you as well. Remember that you know your limits (Ep 140 for help here) and share those if you feel like you are being stretched too thin.
Lean into the Values as you lead yourself on your career journey. Your team will thrive, you’ll continue on an upward trajectory of your choosing and you’ll leave a lasting impact behind you.
The journey to becoming more inclusive is so rewarding on a personal level. There is personal joy and satisfaction as you see yourself grow and mature and this area is typically ripe for personal and professional growth.
Today we are going to focus on actions that you can take as an individual and as a team to ensure that everyone feels valued and has a voice, feel valued, and want to stay around for a long time.
Actions to take as an inclusive leader
It’s hard to have an inclusive team if you are an inclusive leader yourself. Even if you are that type of leader, your leadership will fall flat unless others see, feel, and understand it from you. Here are some personal actions to take as an inclusive leader.
Seek out differences. Curiosity is a trait that many organizations look for in great leaders. It shows that they have a growth mindset and are unlikely to fall into a sense of arrival in their career. Curiosity also lowers overall risk across the leadership board. Get to know those that are on the edge of your network. Spend time with those that you interact with quite a bit, but don’t know so well. Look for the quiet ones in the room and take time to understand their perspective. Seek out individuals that are different that you to gain a larger worldview.
Be present and tell your story. To lead a potentially large change, you need to be present in that change. You’ll gain more buy-in from those that you are looking to convince if they see that you are invested and involved yourself. Tell a compelling story and why it is important to you. Share the impact that your own personal journey has had on you and share the success stories of others (If they are ok with that) to help others see the vision.
Understand your own inclusive shadow. Being an inclusive leader holds little value if you are the only one that thinks you are inclusive. Seek feedback from those that are different from you in their opinion. Do they see you as an advocate and supporter? Check-in with those that you trust and value as well. Doing this helps you find those blind spots that you have. It’s like you are both underestimating and overestimating different parts of how you lead yourself and others.
Learn your impact. At the end of the day, what is your impact on others? Are you being emulated by others? Do you see some effort or behavior change that you didn’t see before? Are you being welcomed into more diverse groups that you were not previously a part of? Are people looking for your direction when it comes to inclusion? Seek a mentor or advisor on who to keep improving.
Whether you are trying to change a small team or a very complex organization, you are more of an influence than you often give yourself credit for. Strengthen your own leadership skills in this area, so that you can lift others up.
Actions to take as an inclusive team and organization
Thinking about your current state around inclusion may be daunting as you think about future possibilities. Start small. Here are some actions that you can take to help your people, team, and organization be more inclusive.
Recognize that it is a journey, not a race. When you tackle inclusion, you are taking others through a journey where they likely will need to challenge their own biases and self-awareness. That’s a huge change in and of itself, without even considering the programmatic, and potential policy changes that need to be made. Keep at it and don’t get discouraged by early setbacks.
Include the most impactful leaders. Many people automatically assume that the top leaders are the most impactful. They are in terms of strategy, but your middle managers are the ones that bring that strategy to life. Prioritize these leaders as you begin the journey. Include them in the process and leverage this group for advocates and early adopters. This will increase your likelihood of lasting change and accelerate your efforts toward your goal.
Leverage data to tell your story. I absolutely love using data to tell the story of what the opportunity is and to celebrate the progress that has been made around an issue. Leaders can often rely on their perception or feelings when it comes to inclusion, “I feel like we are a pretty inclusive group and everyone is treated the same and welcome.” Dig in and gather data on the current state of the team. The data will often write the story itself around what the opportunities are. Be sure to listen to the show today for some examples of how to leverage data in a real way when storytelling.
Pay attention to diverse associates and customers. Your diverse population has a higher likelihood of leaving the team when they don’t feel like they belong and are being heard. Tap into their life experience and their professional experience in the organization to understand what some of those nuanced and obvious points are that the group needs to work on. Also including them on the journey assures them that you aren’t simply paying lip service to change, but that you are truly invested in a new future together.
Being a more inclusive leader has several benefits. You’ll be a more effective leader, the legacy you leave behind will be stronger and your company will be more relevant and profitable as a result. Take the steps today to help others become wildly successful in their roles.
I’ve had the honor to be a part of some really great life-changing projects, events, and situations in my career. When asked about my proudest moments as a leader the stories typically go down a road of inclusion and helping break barriers for others to succeed in new ways. I simply love helping others meet and exceed their own personal and professional expectations.
Being inclusive not only accelerates your career, it also enhances your business and elevates others in the process. Today, we’ll dive into a couple of different ways to think about inclusion, how to care for it, and some of the common traits that are found in these types of leaders.
Inclusive leaders think about diversity in terms of demographics
The initial place that many people go to when they think about diversity is demographics. This can be a great starting point for a larger journey for you, your team, and your organization.
From a forward-facing perspective, your team should mirror the customers and community that you are serving. Reflect on those two groups. Does your team look similar or do you have some work to do? I once had a leader that recognized the gap on their team but didn’t know how to fill it. They weren’t getting a diverse group of people coming in on their application process. My advice to them was to connect with that community of people and meet them where they are instead of expecting them just to show up at your door. Mix up your recruiting efforts; how you publicize an opening and change your approach.
From an inward-facing perspective, look at the make-up of the team or organization. are there more women at the bottom of the chain and more men at the top? At what point does the dynamic flip? Run the same exercise from a cultural perspective. It can be an extremely eye-opening exercise that brings some strong data points as you begin to tell the story of the journey that needs to be taken.
Inclusive leaders think about diversity in terms of inclusiveness
An inclusive leader knows that being fully inclusive is more than a photo-op, or just getting the right mix of people on board. It’s the power of diversity of thought that really pushes productivity, creativity, and retention rates forward. Companies that rate high in diversity of thought also lower their risk of turnover by 30% (Deloitte Study 2018).
In order to foster, nurture, and grow an environment of inclusiveness, focus on these four things:
Fairness and Respect: People need to know that they will be respected in their work and that their opinion matters. They also don’t want to see signs of favoritism in projects or teams. People want to feel like they have an equal chance to be wildly successful in their roles.
Feeling like they are valued and belong: Associates won’t stick around long if they don’t feel like they can be their true authentic self. It’s not good for them or for your team if they feel like they have to put on a face or hide who they are. They desire to showcase their unique self and feel a part of the larger team.
Safety: In order for your people to be their most innovative, vulnerable, and open they need to feel safe. They desire a sense that what they share will not be used against them, impact them in a negative way, and are supported to openly share.
Empowered to grow: Once they feel safe, and respected and they know that they are valued, helping them gain a true sense of empowerment and then supporting that empowerment into real action is the next step on the journey.
Combining the sightline to demographics with the power of diversity of thought makes for a compelling team that will be highly effective and one that others will want to be a part of.
Traits of an inclusive leader
All great inclusive leaders share some common traits among them. Here are some areas to think about as you work to become more inclusive.
Curiosity: Curiosity in a leader is a great all-around trait to have because it ensures that they stay relevant as times change and have a personal and professional growth mindset. Curiosity leads an inclusive leader to seek out different ideas and experiences from others.
Cultural Intelligence: This is an understanding that your worldview is not the same as others and the ability to seek other perspectives for a larger understanding. I recently saw this in action at a local government meeting where one group dismissed another’s concerns. They felt that since the subject at hand wasn’t offensive to them, then by default it shouldn’t be offensive to anyone else. It was an obvious show of a lack of cultural intelligence.
Collaboration: This leader is aware of gaps in representation and is proactive to help fill those holes in meetings and projects. Are the right people at the table?
Commitment: Being an inclusive leader often requires a culture change, and that is something that takes time. These leaders are committed to a long-term vision, instead of seeing it as a check-the-box project that you move away from.
Courage: Along with commitment comes courage. It will take courage to step in a call out a situation, the current landscape, or have a difficult conversation with a co-worker.
Self-Awareness: We all have biases. Have the self-awareness to know what some of those are or where you have a tendency to let your guard down or go on auto-pilot is important to lower those blind spots.
Self-evaluation time! On a scale of 1-5, how would you rank yourself in each one? (Some categories may be difficult to self-evaluate) Ask a close partner or advisor about how they would rank you in each category to get a good understanding of opportunities for your own personal growth.
No matter where you are in your career or organization, you can become an inclusive leader and have a lasting impact on others.