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Betty, chief information officer for a Fortune 500 company, was talking with Geoffrey, chief technology officer for that same company.

“All of a sudden, I don’t have a clue where I’m going,” Betty moaned. “I don’t understand what has changed. Fortunately, none of my staff seems to have noticed yet. Still, I need to get this under control.”

“How is this showing up for you?”

“Inability to make snap decisions like I used to. Dread that someone will ask me for advice and I won’t have an answer. Fear that our direction will change and I won’t notice.”

“Are you feeling a loss of direction? A loss of alignment? Something else?”

Betty considered. “Alignment. I no longer can feel what’s right. So, I don’t know which direction to go.”

“Has what you align to changed? Principles, values, beliefs, whatever you call your guiding stars. Any changes?”

“No,” Betty replied without hesitation. “My base beliefs are unchanged.”

“OK. How about your signals telling you how aligned you are?”

“Nope. No changes to my success signals, either.”

“And the actions you take to adjust your alignment?”

“All unchanged.”

“So you know everything involved in maintaining your alignment, yet you suddenly aren’t able to maintain it anymore?”

“That’s it exactly.”

“Ah. Well. No wonder you no longer ‘have a clue where you’re going,’ as you put it. Finding direction will be challenging if you can’t maintain your alignment.”

“But I know what I’m aligning to! And I know how to measure how aligned I am. And I know how to adjust my aim. Measuring, adjusting, and moving should be enough. At least, it always used to be.”

“It is enough. And it isn’t.”

Betty scrunched up her face in puzzlement. “I don’t understand.”

“Let me say it a different way. Say you’re going on a road trip. You know your destination, and the route to get there. Your phone lets you know when you get off course and how to get back on. You’re an experienced driver who knows what to do in any conceivable situation.”

“Makes sense so far. And, that’s exactly where I’m used to being.”

“And yet, today, your car keeps pulling to the left. While you can compensate, it takes constant attention and energy. Going straight is a challenge, and right turns are nearly impossible. Will you ever make it to your destination?”

Betty nodded understanding. “I get it. Just because I know how to maintain my alignment doesn’t mean I can.”


“So, what do I do?”

“Well, what would you do if you were driving that incalcitrant car?”

“Ummm…. I’d start by pulling over, getting out, and having a look. Maybe something obvious is going on that I can easily solve. Then, if that didn’t work, I’d call roadside assistance. Either they’ll be able to solve the problem, or they can tow me to a mechanic who can. If that’s going to take too long, I’d grab a ride with someone else or rent a car. Or postpone the trip.”

Betty paused, looked at Geoffrey, and said, “So, you’re saying I should examine the problem from another angle, ask someone to help me diagnose the issue, and draft along behind someone else until I resolve it.”

“I believe you just said that. All I did was point out that if you can’t maintain your alignment, you’ll repeatedly find yourself uncertain where you should go and how to get there.”

“OK. So, we’re both smart. But I should have been able to figure this out myself.”

“Please don’t should on yourself,” Geoffrey requested with a grin. “We often can’t see what’s going on with ourselves, even when the exact same situation is crystal clear when it’s happening with someone else.”

“Thanks for the reminder. And, thanks for your different perspective. While I still don’t know what to change, I do now have a plan for finding that out. Just having that, I feel much better.”

“I’m glad. And, I’m glad I could help. Let me know what you find out. I’m curious to learn what is keeping you out of alignment.”

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