I don’t need to tell you how stressed your organization probably is right now – from canceled vacations to (virtual) homeschooling, trying to grow fast and figure out navigating a completely new “out of office” culture. Your organization might be slammed with increased demand or struggling to keep the doors open due to the opposite. But no matter how you look at it: businesses are stressed right now. Leaders are stressed. Employees are stressed.
One mindset that I’ve always practiced and coached has been further crystallized during this stressful time: the power of clarity in organizations.
Clarity vs. Certainty
Sure, everyone would love to have certainty, especially during these times. However, the truth is we all can function without certainty but we all struggle without clarity.
The more and more I study and coach successful leaders, the best leaders know their #1 job is to provide clarity. Everything you are doing is either providing clarity or propagating confusion. It’s that simple and difficult.
The next time you are about to communicate something – an email, casting vision, giving directions, preparing an agenda, speaking at an all-hands presentation, or even a 1-on-1 – simply ask yourself, “How will I make sure I’m providing clarity (not confusion) with this?”
I’ve found this to be an incredibly powerful way to get focused on what matters most and reach your goals and promises quicker. In fact, it’s the first step to creating real decision velocity throughout your organization AND accelerating to your desired outcomes.
Providing clarity is the first step in helping your employees make informed decisions. Informed Decisions lead to Alignment. If you have Alignment, you can step on the gas towards decision velocity. If you have decision velocity, you will accelerate to the outcomes you and all of your stakeholders expect. This is so powerful in reducing stress and increasing engagement. Everyone wants a sense of accomplishment and it starts with providing clarity!
7 thoughtful ways to provide clarity
Ironically, it can be overwhelming to think about all the ways you can provide clarity, but here are 7 thoughtful ways to add clarity to your business now:
- Create a Commander’s intent. Focus on the outcomes you are looking for vs. the tasks that need to be done. EVERYONE, in your organization, should be able to finish this sentence, “If we do not do anything else by the end of this quarter (or some other time frame), we must ________________!!”
- Empower your people. People will react, grow and dig in when they feel valued and empowered. Think about how you can coach people to provide greater clarity vs. catch people doing something wrong.
- Put a sticky note on your mirror at home, “What is one way I will provide clarity today in an area where only I can make this impact?”
- Talk about what won’t change, especially during times of great change and stress: it’s critical to discuss what won’t change! (Treating people with respect, commitment to growth, building empathetic relationships with our customers, your values, etc.).
- Provide role clarity for new positions. The #1 way to motivate someone is to give them a sense of accomplishment. This starts with role clarity. Here’s my guide on how to give role clarity.
- Do skip level 1-on-1s. This can be a powerful tool to hear deeper into the organization about what’s working and what’s not. It gives insight into where there might be confusion. Be an incredible listener. Ask great questions that will give you insight into whether they are clear or confused. Don’t multitask. Be present to hear what isn’t being said in conversations. The best leaders hear what is not being said.
- Ask employees to repeat back what they heard. It may seem trivial, but after providing instructions on a task, don’t just ask, “Do you understand?” A “Yes” doesn’t mean anything. Have the employee repeat back what they heard. Chances are they will be 90% right. The remaining 10% provides you a chance to provide more clarity where there is any confusion.
As a leader, whatever you can do to provide clarity will (literally and figuratively) help paint a better picture of the future for the people within the business – and significantly reduce your organization’s stress.
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