Another Kind of Alignment

January 2014, by So-Young Kang

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy New Year! Recently, I have been reflecting on the word ‘alignment.’ What does it mean? What does it require? Is it just about aligning life to your values and purpose? It has been for the past few years for me. It has taken intentional focus, effort and conscious choice to align the various parts of my life (e.g., work, personal, faith, social) to be one whole, integrated life. I believe it will continue to be a journey of conscious choice to live a life that is integrated and…well, aligned.

On my journey, I realize that the process of alignment has a backside, which we sometimes don’t think about. Once you are clear on your vision and purpose and have started the journey of aligning your life with your purpose, which is the process of creation, now what? There is another kind of alignment, which is just as important and requires pushing things away that may be blocking the path. It’s like having to remove teeth when I had braces, so that all of my teeth could be aligned.

I believe this alignment is about stopping to look around and see what is around you that may be hindering, blocking or slowing you down from walking intentionally towards your purpose. These blockages could be people, situations, or opportunities. They are the things that require your energy, time and resources. While all things are permissible, not all are helpful or useful.

As a business leader, once you have a clear vision and purpose for your organization, we often focus on aligning your people and team towards that purpose which is critical. This other side of alignment is also about seeing the current state and making intentional decisions to remove what may not be aligned. For example, this could include people. Who on your team is not on the bus? If not on the bus, can you get them on? If not, is it time to let them off so that they can pursue their purpose and you can lead your organization to pursue yours? I’m not suggesting that you lay everyone off but what I am saying is that there is a cost to not considering this side of alignment. Those that are left in the organization become less aligned when they see a tolerance for people or situations that are not fully aligned. Imagine how challenging it would be to get your teeth aligned without removing the extra teeth or creating enough space for all to fit.

Being aligned to your values for people does not mean you do not proactively manage and intentionally move people who are not aligned. In fact, you can lovingly guide someone to realize their purpose and encourage them to pursue their dreams even outside of your organization. Sometimes we mix concepts up and feel we have to be either ‘accepting of unproductive and unhelpful behavior because we care for people’ or ‘be a jerk and fire everyone.’ Can I challenge you to pursue both ‘caring for people’and ‘being willing to let people go at the right time?’

What are the areas in your organization you need to intentionally remove to get better aligned?