By Lee Eisenstaedt, Founder of LWCN
One of my previous posts, which was about agreement versus alignment, was published on Forbes.com: (https://bit.ly/3oe10lV). In it, I wrote how you don’t have to have agreement all of the time, but you must have alignment all of the time.
Even when there's alignment, we all know there can be a group of valued people who grumble quite loudly and be disruptive to the team and the environment. True, we made a decision as a team but let’s be honest: Just because we’ve reached a decision and appear to have alignment doesn’t mean all is well.
Those in reluctant agreement aren’t going to return happily to their offices. Is there anything that can be done with them?
The easy answer would be to tell them to get on board or leave. Easy, but perhaps not right. After all, in many cases, the people who aren’t in agreement still like the company very much and don’t want to leave and you need their skills. So do you have to keep conversing with them to ensure that they understand where you’re going as a team with your decision and “sell” them on that decision?
The answer is: To a point.
Drawing A Line In The Sand
Once you reach the point of no return on an alignment conversation, you need to draw a line in the sand that can’t be crossed. Easier said than done for many leaders. How do we know? We ask participants in our leadership self-assessment to rate themselves on their skill or willingness to do this. The average score based on over 5,000 responses is 69.7%. So, it seems that two- thirds of all leaders and managers have some difficulty making decisions that not everyone will agree with and then sticking with those decisions.
Of course, nobody wants to be unlikeable by the vast majority of employees. You don’t jump out of bed wondering, “What can I do to tick everyone off today? How can I slow things down?”
Still, leaders and managers find themselves at a crossroads with very tough calls on various issues, in which case the rest of the team has to ask themselves, “Do I align or do I agree?” They don’t have to agree with what the leader decides, but they have to align. Truthfully, some employees who align do so because it’s expedient and they don’t believe any change will last.
However, I’m a big believer that when you are in alignment, then you partially own the consequences of the actions being taken. Because you’ve aligned, you implicitly agree with them. You could say that you don’t, but in fact, you do.
Can You Ever Align With A Disruptor?
We’ve written about disruptors in the past and one of their traits is they almost always know that they’re being disruptive. It’s practically part of their DNA. They will not agree with you very much, if ever. But they will be in alignment – and that’s OK. Embracing disruptors for their points of view is perfectly fine, and actually quite beneficial, if they are not too disruptive to the culture.
Effective leaders and managers need to embrace these kinds of thinkers. It will be harder to get them in agreement with you, but they’ll get there. And as long as they align, you’ll like having them around because Disruptors are the ones who will question the status quo. They’re the ones who will come up with new ideas. They’re the ones who won’t just go with the flow. They won’t be yes men or yes women. Ever.
So you’d be well off if you welcome a bit of some good debate. That’s where the disruptors will be – powerful, good people to have in the room, as long as they leave the room without being too frustrated or ticked off.
A Line In The Sand Today Is Not A Line In The Sand Forever
If you’re worried that a disruptor may leave, keep this in mind: Let’s say they do leave today. Does it mean that they can never come back? Stranger, less welcome things have happened over the past 2-3 years due to the massive global change brought on the Covid pandemic. We see all kinds of people moving around from job to job and a lot of people returning to a former job because the situation has changed. Perhaps a leader or department head seeks out a Disruptor, offering them a better role than they had before.
Who saw that one coming?
The point is this: Always be open to the idea that agreement and alignment may not exist today, but many things can change in our world more than they ever have before. Tomorrow can bring agreement and alignment in someone based on just a couple of things, such as a different person in a managerial role saying, “Hey, come back here. We know what you did here for several years and how well you performed. We’ve got a new role here for you.”
Now we’ve got a Disruptor in complete agreement and alignment because of one factor. And no lines in the sand can change that.