If your goal as a leader is to maximize time, energy, productivity, and results- clarity is everything. Clarity speeds up decision making, encourages ingenuity, improves productivity, maximizes time and energy, gets rid of waste, and increases the bottom line exponentially. It helps people anticipate and avoid pitfalls, and spot opportunities. It creates trust and makes people feel valued and valuable. Clarity literally transforms cultures, and leads the charge in employee retention.
So why isn’t everyone prioritizing clarity above all else? Well, to be honest, most leaders think they are clearer than they actually are. And, they don’t appreciate the relationship between clarity and the bottom line until they have either experienced a devastating loss in personnel, profit, or both. In this article, I make the case for clarity. When you finish reading, you will see how clarity, or a lack thereof, is directly impacting your bottom line.
You Might Not Be as Clear as You Think
When I ask leaders about clarity in their organization, I get a response that sounds something like this: “I am crystal clear- it is everyone and everything else that is the issue.”
Leaders are confused when people don’t understand, don’t execute, seem detached, or leave- and the assumption is that it must be a problem with “them.” What leaders don’t see is that in almost every instance, greater clarity from the top, communicated effectively all the way through the organization, will resolve these issues.
A founder I recently worked with (we will call her Kat), expressed frustration that her team was not executing on the vision of “being the absolute best in the space.” She told me she had a very clear idea of what being the “absolute best” meant, and was certain everyone understood as well.
Except…That clarity only existed in her head.
Kat had never explained, in words, her definition of “absolute best.” While she intuitively “knew” what it meant, she had never specifically explored or articulated her definition, so it had never been shared with her team. Those on the team, in turn, had created their own definitions, each believing that they too “knew” what it meant to be the “absolute best.” Because there was a lack of shared clarity around the definition of this goal, people were unsure of how to meet it. The result: a lot of people wasting time trying to figure out what “absolute best” meant, how to reach the goal of becoming whatever they assumed that was, doing things that didn’t matter at all to the founder, and feeling useless and frustrated when their best efforts were not appreciated, or even well received.
Kat was frustrated with her “wholly ineffective” team. The team was disillusioned and upset with Kat, who was “unappreciative of our efforts” and for whom “nothing is ever good enough.” Kat’s organization was literally spinning in circles, wasting hundreds of hours each week, with a leader who felt let down by her people, and people who felt they couldn’t please their leader no matter what they did or how hard they worked.
Had we not stepped in and made radical clarity the first priority in working with Kat and her company, more than half the team would be gone today.
Clarity Solves the Root Issue
Contrary to a current narrative that “people don’t want to work,” “don’t care,” and “want something for nothing,” most people DO want to work. They are just more discerning about what they want to experience as they work, and how fulfilled they seek to feel from their efforts. What is one thing that is certain to enhance fulfillment? You guessed it: clarity. When all those in an organization can clearly see, and rally around, a common vision with clearly defined goals, they are more likely to feel confident and excited in the pursuit thereof.
As we worked with Kat in the example above to define and articulate her definition of “absolute best,” the true extent of the chaos enveloping her team was revealed. She defined “absolute best in the space,” as “beating our competitors by a 15% margin or better.” In her mind, it was always about sales metrics that exceeded those reported by the competition. Her inner voice was saying you can’t be the best unless you sell more than anyone else. This is what she cared about most.
When we spoke with her team, however, “being best” meant far more than the numbers. The team cited things like improving their sales month over month (without respect to the competition), customer loyalty and relationships, expanding into new markets, developing new partnerships to create a larger footprint, getting a specific number of positive reviews, growing the team, and increasing followers on social media. Many people didn’t even mention the competition when we asked about their success metrics. The founder was completely out of alignment with her team on her defining metric. Imagine what else might have been unclear within the organization, and you can get a sense of the massive impact of making clarity a priority.
When we dig into clarity with leaders who are ready to find it, the changes we can immediately put in play are astounding. With clarity, specific processes and tasks can be put in place to help team members work with their own unique skill sets in furtherance of the shared goals. Leaders can motivate the team and provide them with a map to success. Clarity improves employee excitement, commitment, and performance. Innovation increases, as does communication. Without clarity, there is no future. With it, vision becomes reality. And when this happens, goals are met and exceeded, market share is gained, and any number of other success markers are achieved.
Achieving clarity is not simple. It takes outside perspective, because we are predisposed to believe we are clear, even when we are not. As difficult as it can be for leaders to consider and accept that they might not be as clear as they think they are, the increased productivity, profits, loyalty, buy-in and retention make the introspection, and the ensuing quest for radical clarity, well worth it. What’s the first commitment toward greater clarity you can make?