(no, this post is not about chiropractic – though the metaphor might be apt!)

I was having a very interesting discussion yesterday with a fellow consultant – this gal is wicked smart – and she was telling me about how many of her corporate client challenges boiled down to one word: Alignment.

Getting everybody on the same page and moving in the same direction.

Or, if we want to go with biz-jargonLinking of organizational goals with the employees’ personal goals. Requires common understanding of purposes and goals of the organization, and consistency between every objective and plan right down to the incentive offers.

When a car is out of alignment – or a spinal column, or a group of soldiers, or an organization – things don’t operate smoothly, and breakdowns occur.

But then we see alignment at work – say, in a flower – and we intuitively know that we want that for our work environment.

Over coffee this morning, yesterday’s conversation made me think about personal/professional alignment for individuals.

What if we’re in a role, or part of an organization, or going in a direction, where we just don’t fit?

It’s very uncomfortable, isn’t it? Even distressing at times, when it’s over the long haul.

I think about the people in career transition that I’ve talked to, and there’s typically a deep sense of misalignment:

  • I thought I wanted to do this when I was in my 20’s, but now I know that I don’t.
  • I started out doing something I really liked; but now, I’ve advanced up the ladder to a role I can’t stand.
  • I’m not sure I even like this industry anymore (or this company).
  • My prior company got acquired and this culture isn’t a fit.
  • I used to have a good boss – we saw eye to eye. This new VP is a jerk and I can’t stand working for him.
  • I have bigger dreams and I can’t get to them with this type of job.
  • I’m out of work and I don’t even know what kind of jobs to apply for.
  • I think I’d really rather be out on my own (or, conversely, the grass really wasn’t greener out on my own – I want to go back to a bigger company).

I’m always surprised by how many seemingly successful people are truly wondering what they’re going to do with the rest of their careers. Or if they’ll ever have a chance to find new possibilities.

Here’s the good news: all that prior experience contains clues as to what we really are great at. That sum of life-so-far, with its various successes, failures, alignments, and misalignments, is like a scattering of gold coins on a field. Put them all together, line them up, and the picture becomes clear – THIS is who we really are, THIS is the situation that brings out our best, THIS is the direction and the type of role that is in alignment with our core strengths and aspirations.

In a very real sense, alignment is all the best of what branding is about – not just a logo and a tagline, but getting to the essence, to the purpose, and articulating it effectively. Whether that’s a person, a company, even a department.

The feelings of misalignment can be haunting, especially when it’s hard to articulate what’s “wrong.” It takes courage to ask the questions, and to actually take a deep look inside to figure out where the true North is in our own professional soul.

I do know this – out of foggy dissatisfaction can emerge a bullseye of fresh awareness and direction. It takes a pro-active step into a safe environment where everything can be out on the table and all the questions are allowed.

(btw, this isn’t just for others. As a solo consultant, I’ve designed my own practice to reflect my strengths, but there is at least one enduring misalignment. I really don’t like selling. I’ll do consulting, and ideation, and branding all day long, but the practicalities of customer acquisition and financial transactions and business acumen – not my strongest suit. Anybody out there want to sell me so I can just do my work?) 

If this misalignment describes you, maybe I can help. I do private half-day and full-day sessions to help individuals and small businesses get clarity – another word for finding alignment. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do, because it is so liberating for people suffering under professional misalignment. Maybe I don’t sell it particularly well; but if you need to reach greater clarity with a trusted advisor – well, let’s talk.

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