In business, as in life, certain words catch hold and quickly become a part of everyday vernacular. A word I’ve heard a lot of lately is align. Of course, once you take notice of a word it feels like you hear it everywhere. While I’ve been thinking about what this word means, it helps that I have a very good visual reference. When my oldest son was younger, he’d line up toys or items in particular lines, sometimes according to size. I remember him lining up mini-pumpkins at a pumpkin patch one year. He grew out of the habit. My younger son stuck to making lines a lot longer, and did it a lot more often. Moms of autistic kids may recognize this as a possible flag for a kid who is on the autism spectrum. My littlest guy, we are finding out, may indeed be on the autism spectrum.
So, when I hear “align” I picture my little dude diligently ordering his favorite trucks into a line across the den. Thankfully, he’s made some great developmental strides through his therapy sessions. His play is more imaginative and age appropriate. He’s been lining up his trucks less often, and if he does he’ll pull trucks out of the line and make driving sounds while rolling them over the carpet. Learning about the different way he learns and processes information from the world around him has been a whirlwind of information. Thankfully, it has been a learning and growing moment for my whole family. Last week, while preparing for an important meeting about his schooling, I had an unpleasant encounter that reminded me about the importance of the word align.
I was set to speak in the line up of a live virtual event. The event was hosted and organized by a business coach I’ve known of for some time. I was slated as second to speak that day, which was good because I had to get to my son’s appointment shortly thereafter. This was the most important meeting with educators or professionals we have had regarding our children to date. A half hour after the start time, the event had yet to begin. Worried that I’d miss my chance to participate, I messaged the team. I let them know I had an upcoming appointment and that I would not be able to speak if the event did not start soon. I said I was disappointed because 1) half an hour was a long time to be late and 2) I was looking forward to speaking since I wanted to support the cause, the coach who was hosting and my own brand. Instead of a reply message, I got a phone call back. The coach called me personally to tell me she was sick, she’d done live events like this 300 times before and had only ever been late a few times, and a few other angry things. She said she didn’t need to know about my disappointment, which I found ridiculous, rude and unwise. I’d paid to secure my speaking spot, promoted the event on my own social media and invited others to participate. I was sad, for a number of reasons, but mostly because I’d been wanting to align myself with a coach (or a few) for some weeks now and had agreed to be a part of her event to see if she would be a good fit. Clearly not. She hadn’t let us speakers know she was sick. I’d have understood that. She didn’t apologize for running behind schedule. I’d have respected that. She called to yell, to berate and if I had not interrupted likely to “cuss me out”. Can you imagine? And the whole while I never mentioned what the important thing was I had to do later that day.
I learned not to be so quick to align myself with someone without doing due diligence. The brand they present to the world is one thing, but knowing someone’s personality, heart and state of mind seems equally important. Credentials, numbers and social capital are great to have but how long can that sustain you if you are one rant, insult or scandal away from undoing it all? I’ll chalk it up to being overworked, and don’t hold it against her personally. I will also, however, steer clear. The experience was a reminder to me that the most important aligning we can remember to do, daily, is with our creator God and internally . . . checking our intentions, emotions, attitudes, methods and outcomes.
It is important to truly align.