Looking back, I don’t think I appreciated the value that clarity brings to a business until more recent years. It probably wasn’t until 2015 to be specific, when I started facilitating Patrick Lencioni’s ‘5 Behaviours of a Cohesive Team’ program.
To understand the value of clarity I think it’s worthwhile considering what a lack of clarity looks like. It looks like confusion; confusion around what’s expected, what the priorities are and who is doing what. It looks like a lack of alignment, where different leaders say different things and by doing so, they send the team mixed messages. It feels like a lack of empowerment because where there’s a lack of clarity, the team by effect cannot truly be empowered to do their jobs.
Conversely, a business operating with clarity has a clear focus, alignment between leaders, cooperation between teams and people empowered to do their jobs.
Now if you think clarity is a given and easy to achieve, I’m afraid you may need to think that one over. Just because it sounds simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy. To gain true clarity; it takes time, commitment and work. And it needs to come from the top. It’s doable, I’ve been there as senior leadership teams work through this stuff and just like one of my kids favourite books ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ says “you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you’ve got to go through it.”
Recently someone was telling me about their CEO and how he had increased the frequency of their organisation’s virtual townhalls since COVID-19 started to impact Australia in March 2020. All employees were encouraged to log on to these townhalls, to listen and submit questions to the CEO, as the organisation navigates through this global pandemic. She had been to most of these sessions over the past few months and said to me “It’s pretty much the same message every time; he brings everything back to our 3 pillars”.
I couldn’t help but say “That’s awesome. That’s clarity…and it’s great leadership.”
I believe that clarity is even more critical now, than ever before. This particular CEO is a great example of a leader who is keeping everyone focused, ensuring there’s alignment and empowering his people during a time when it would be easy to do the opposite. He’s making hard decisions and answering difficult questions but he’s always bringing it back to what the organisation is clear about; their 3 pillars. Oh, and by the way, their business is growing, despite the current economic climate. Coincidence or not?
Many business leaders I meet with are so busy being busy that they haven’t had the time to focus on getting clarity. I’ve got no judgement on that, I myself took some time out while my business has experienced a downturn during COVID-19 and I did some serious reflection on my own business, Human Experience. I’m so proud to say that we worked through this (we didn’t skip over it and didn’t try to go under it). We are super clear on why we exist, how we do what we do and what we offer our clients. My team are more self-managed than ever before, we have weekly check-ins and they are smashing their goals that are 100% aligned to our focus areas. On our weekly team meeting call this week I found myself saying “So nothing has changed, our focus is still the same, stick to our plan and keep doing what you’re doing.” This clarity of purpose is giving me, and my team hope and energy for the future of Human Experience.
I think about all the service-based businesses navigating the impact of COVID-19 and I can’t help but hope that they’ve taken this time to get super clear on their business; why they exist, how they do what they do and exactly what they do. I hope they take this clarity to their teams; they communicate with them over and over again and empower them to do their jobs with a clear purpose.
I genuinely want to see Australian businesses not just survive this, but thrive. And I believe that fortune will favour the businesses who are brave enough to go on that bear hunt, to work through it, do the work, get clear and lead with clarity.