Book Review: Radical Alignment by Alexandra Jamieson and Bob Gower

I love tools that can do everything. Swiss Army knife? Yes! Leatherman? Heck yeah. Gerber? Absolutely. Listen, nothing makes me happier than saying to someone, “Hey, I have just the thing for that!” Up until now, I’ve never felt this way about a book – but Radical Alignment is an AMAZING multitool disguised as a book.

I first learned the game-changing conversation method in the authors’ first book Getting to Hell Yes. It’s a small book, short and sweet and to the point – it walks through exactly the steps for having hard conversations well using a very specific structure where each person takes turn sharing intentions, concerns and fears about the topic, boundaries, and dreams for what the best most amazing outcome might be if everything goes well. It’s a small but mighty way to infuse empathy and respect into any conversation – but especially those that we want to avoid because of tensions that can / will arise. In the new book, Alex and Bob dig into how to format high-intensity conversations so they create shared understanding, why this method works, and why you should care. Nothing sums up the reason that our conversations veer off-course quite so well as their introduction:

“What’s missing is a shared and explicit understanding and empathy for the nuances of each other’s positions. So, conflict develops when it doesn’t need to. What’s needed is a framework to direct our thoughts, words, ears, and heart so that we stay connected to the reason for our connection.”

Staying connected to the reason for our connection sounds simple, and it can be, but when there are strong feelings involved in how to approach solving a problem, what steps to take next, or even who needs to be involved, it’s easy to fall into pitching our own way forward. Perhaps you’ve scrolled by a nicely formatted Stephen Covey quote declaring, “People don’t listen to understand. They listen to reply. The collective monologue is everyone talking and no one listening.”

So far, I’ve used the All In Method outlined in Radical Alignment to talk about school in the time of Covid-19 and also what board game to play with my 8 year old son. I’ve used AIM to plan events for clients, digital offerings right on this website, and even as a way of reflecting on my quarterly business goals and where those have landed in 2020. (Stay tuned for the next blog post – I’ll be sharing exactly how I do quarterly business goals reflection using the conversation format that Radical Alignment teaches. It really is a multitool disguised as a book!)

Radical Alignment takes our unproductive conflict and transforms it into something we could all use more of: mutual trust, empathy, and respect. The original framework of intentions/concerns/boundaries/dreams is outlined with more examples of how it can be used at home as well as at work. The authors also take more time to cover how to prepare for an AIM conversation, devoting an entire chapter to making sure everyone in an AIM conversation is set up for a positive experience.

If you’re in a hurry to put the teaching of this book to work, I highly recommend starting with Chapter 1, The Foundations of Great Communication, then skipping ahead to Chapters 4, 5, and 6 – Set the Stage, Have the Conversation, and After the Conversation. Everything you need to know to utilize the All-In Method effectively is in those chapters, with the rest providing deep dives into how to use it well.

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