Creating alignment happens step by step, one conversation at a time. It can happen faster if, first, you choose to slow down.
Remember you always have a choice: jump to solutions, or explore the challenge first.
- If a meeting looks like it is going to be tense
- If the scope and the outcomes of a project are fuzzy
- If people seem tense and don’t share the same agenda
Faced with any of these situations, you can always respond with leadership instead of reacting by default.
If you decide to go the leadership route, here are some simple steps to help you diagnose before you fix:
- Offer to start with questions rather than answers. Also, respect that everyone has a different level of patience for the inquiry process.
- Ask yourself and everyone what you don’t know. Use your curiosity with questions that start with “I wonder what/who/why/when/if…”. You will create clarity and connections as you learn about the situation.
- Suggest a timeframe during which only questions are allowed within the group. “Questions only” is a technic to encourage mutual listening and understanding. It gives everyone time to “diagnose” the situation and build a shared experience.
- Stay aware of everyone’s emotions. Probing instead of acting under challenging circumstances is easier said than done, especially when the room fills with intense feelings.
- Accept that some questions will have to be left unanswered for the time being. So, first, collectively agree on how to gather more info. Then, encourage people to take ownership to find out on their own.
- Let people express their challenges in their own words. Then, if you pay attention, you will hear the core of their narrative–the mental framework that profoundly influences how they act and think. Listening at this meta-level is the key to moving forward.
Raise your hand. Diagnosing is leading:
- You recognize someone’s suffering.
- You offer a moment of listening.
- You create a safe space.
- You make people feel listened to
- You create meaning
- You change the narrative
- The new narrative creates alignment
- Alignment creates a movement.
How long can you spend diagnosing a situation before moving on to solutions? I wonder.