We’ve been discussing aligning conversations this week. You can read the intro, Pt 1, and Pt 2 if you’re just now tuning in. I appreciate all the feedback I’ve received. This is definitely making me want to do better at this myself and I hope it is helpful to you as well!
As we’ve discussed, an aligning conversation is:
A conversation that serves to nudge or redirect the path of someone you are leading in order to keep them performing in a way that increases organizational effectiveness.
I believe there are at least 4 components to a healthy aligning conversation. So far we’ve looked at the first, CELEBRATE, and the second, ALIGN. Today, I want to look at the third component to a healthy ALIGNING conversation:
This to me is one of the most important parts of an aligning conversation, and one that is most often missed (behind CELEBRATE/BUILD UP). This is a critical role for a leader, and one we often fail miserably at. If you had an aligning conversation but did not equip the person to succeed at what you are asking them to do, you have set them up for failure. Imagine if you had a nasty habit of running into the curb every time you turned a corner, and you took your car in for an alignment. Your mechanic asks you some questions, discovers that you have “curbed it up” over and over, and promptly aligns your vehicle. Then he sends you on your way. Would he have set you up well for success? No. He should have told you, “Stop hitting the curb. Here’s a book on how to drive properly.” He armed you with info. He gave you resources.
Equipping is simply saying, “Here’s what I’m willing to do to help you succeed at this.” Don’t look at this like holding the hand of the person you’re leading. It’s a necessary part of leadership. This is coaching at its best.
Ask yourself, “What tools or resources can I equip them with to help them succeed at what I’m asking them to do?” Maybe it’s a book to read, a conference to attend, a networking relationship to establish. This varies greatly, but I believe you need to give them something to see that you’re going to do what you can to help them succeed. Perhaps it’s an hour of your time per week for a designated period of time. Perhaps it’s changing their hours or buying that new piece of software.
You won’t always know what it is prior to the conversation, but here are 2 questions you can ask during this part of the conversation that I think will help you and the person you are leading walk away feeling positive and equipped to move forward:
- Is there anything you need that you don’t have that would help you do what I’m asking you to do?
It might be that they need a software upgrade, or some training, or an assistant, and you might not know those things until you ask that question. I think this is excellent because it takes the pressure off of you to be the resource king or queen, and brings a level of collaboration to finding the right resources. This will increase buy-in and ownership on all sides.
- Is there anything I could personally do to lead you well through this?
Ah, now you’re asking a question that can really open a door to understanding how they’d like to be led. They may say, “Well, if we could meet every other week and I could run my ideas by you”, or “If you could block out an hour to think through XYZ, that would be helpful.” I’m not saying you have to do everything they say here, but getting this feedback is important because you might be able to do something small that could have enormous impact.
When you’re sitting down to plan out your conversation, ask yourself: “Am I prepared to equip them to succeed at what I’m asking?” Celebrating well, giving clear expectations, and equipping them are all key steps (in that order) to having a healthy aligning conversation. Don’t miss this step- it is what gives the confidence that you’re willing to ensure that it can be done.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the last component of a healthy aligning conversation, and it will help you both walk away from this conversation feeling great about what lay ahead.