Seven Ways High-performing Leaders Forge Clarity
How high-performing leaders forge clarity in such a way they hit their targets more easily? What do they need to forge clarity when everything seems chaotic and messy? How do they convince their teams to focus on one thing? What is clarity all about when you hold a leadership position?
It is the desire of every leader to see their vision become reality.
WarningThe challenge leaders face translating vision to reality is having the focus and clarity to bring their vision to life. Prior to any discussion of bringing a vision to life you need solid plan, a foundation.
What’s our goal? What’s our strategy for achieving that goal? What’s our step-by-step plan?
When a team — a group of people working together toward a common goal — has clarity, everyone has a clear understanding of everything they need to know about the work required to effectively achieve their goal.
Of all the core skills required to be a successful leader, clear communication is by far one of the most essential.
Keeping your messaging clear, simple and consistent goes a long way towards making sure that your words resonate with your audience. Clear communication comes from how you approach your work and the people around you.
One of the main differences between the very best leaders and the others is their level of clarity.
Effective leaders are clear about a lot of things, including who they are and what they represent. The depth of clarity leaders need calls for reflection and soul searching of the deep and deliberate kind.
As the world becomes more difficult to understand and predict, there is a greater need for shared clarity in organizations.
But precisely because of that ambiguity, the dilemma facing leaders is how to actually build shared clarity that engages and aligns people. Based on my personal research, here are 7 ways high-performing leaders forge clarity.
Know Your Purpose
It’s important that everyone on a team share a common purpose, a clear understanding of why they’re doing whatever it is they’re working on in the first place.
Clarity of purpose is important for motivation, both individual motivation and the kind of spiritual coherence that motivates an entire team.
A team that truly understands and believes in a common goal for towards which they’re working is a team that can persevere through the difficult challenges involved in any important undertaking.
Clarity of purpose feeds an organization in the same way that fertilizer feeds soil. It nourishes everything visible, as well all the invisible activities that take place out of sight to make an organization outstanding.
When you have it, there is greater alignment, greater collaboration, higher levels of innovation, and so on. When you don’t have it, everything becomes stressed to the point that even basic decisions require more effort that they should need.
If you’re leading a team that is part of a larger organization, one of the most important things you can do is to help everyone on your team understand how the larger organization is impacting the world, how your team is critical to the success of the organization, and how their individual work is important to the success of the team.
Leaders must start with articulating something bigger than short-term goals and financial objectives. They must create human-centered meaning that addresses the “why.”
What does success looks like when living out this purpose? This shared understanding helps create an anchor of clarity in a sea of uncertainty that generates wave after wave of unprecedented challenges.
Leaders need to take the time to clearly define their values. Related to the why is showing how work contributes to societal value.
WarningPeople have a desire to impact the world more than simply generating profits. When employees are given space to make meaningful contributions at work, they become more engaged and productive.
People look to leaders to set the tone in a conversation. As such, it’s important to consider the manner in which you’re delivering your message. If you’re saying one thing and your tone and/or body language is saying another, people will get conflicting messages.
Clarity means delivering a consistent message and leaving little room for interpretation. It’s not enough to agree to a purpose and write it down.
WarningIt needs to be communicated consistently and regularly to anyone impacted. Employees need to see it, hear it, and feel it. They need to know not only how the organization is affecting the bigger picture, but how their contribution makes an impact as well.
When I think about clear communication, I think about the style of communication and what is being communicated. But I also think about the communication framework.
You want to communicate as transparently as possible. Bear in mind that today’s workers want more information, not less. They want to know what the company strategy and goals are, how the company is performing, what’s going well, and what isn’t.
Stories have been used throughout history to help illustrate complex messages in a simplified and comprehensible format. By conveying your message in the form of a story—especially one that reinforces your instructions and helps add clarity to your expectations—your communication will really sink in and resonate with your audience.
Don’t communicate in ambiguity. Be direct, candid, honest, and open. Be crisp and clear in what and how you communicate.
You must communicate with clarity and it’s not set it and forget it. Clarity doesn’t just come from what you say and how you say it, it also comes from where and when you say it. People need to know what the vision is, what’s expected of them and how they will be measured.
Be consistent in your messages. Be consistent in your operating framework. Be consistent in how and when you communicate.
Basically, don’t change with the winds or your moods or the last trendy article you read. Be a consistent leader. Do what you say you will do, expect others to as well.
The ability to speak and write persuasively has gained importance in the age of digital communications. People expect leaders to communicate and they want to be “wowed.”
WarningAn eloquent speech can close a deal. An eloquent memo to staff can quell fears, dampen dissent, or inspire people to reach new heights.
When you as a leader are clear in your vision you cannot contain the passion and excitement you have when speaking to others about your vision. When you are expressing your vision they feel it.
Your team can smell and taste their world once your vision is implemented. They “get it”.
They will want to join your cause and carry forward your mission with you. The vision and passion come together and now they have a mission as well. When folks understand the mission, when they have clear marching orders, now you have a passionate team.
Leaders who hold a negative mindset about their work will lack energy and enthusiasm, and success will be constrained for them and also their teams.
On the other hand, leaders who frame their work in positive terms will most likely achieve significant personal and professional results. No matter how difficult the role, a clear, positive mindset is vital for leaders.
Many of us are acutely aware of our weaknesses, but how many of us keep our strengths in front of mind? Superman was clear that he was faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. If you’re a leader, it’s important that you are clear about your leadership superpowers, and that you find appropriate ways to put these to use.
Discernment is another superpower and the ability to judge well, whether in relation to people, situations, or business decisions.
WarningIf you are discerning, you take the time to understand a problem and walk your way around various solutions to find just the right one. You don’t jump head first into every opportunity, but think critically and find the best option.
Empathy is another one and the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is incredibly important in any workplace environment and helps you to manage conflict and relationships.
It’s become even more important as businesses compete to better understand the needs of their customers. People don’t want to be analyzed and marketed to-they want brands to understand what they want and need. Empathetic leaders function better within the company, but can also use this trait to power the business, as well.
Improve Role Clarity
Every person in your team should know what each team member is responsible for and what the teams around them are doing. This will allow them to work smartly with their teammates, predict bottlenecks in work, and see any unaccounted for “white space” between the roles.
Great leaders are not confused between what and how it needs to get done (ends and means) and who is best at carrying out that role.
They are willing to play the role of a servant or a leader based on the context and in either role. They have clarity about their identity and do not confuse their role and identity or allow one to dominate the other.
Great leaders are great team players; they seek partnerships and collaborate with others instead of wanting all the glory and rewards of a leadership position.
They recognize that leadership is primarily a stewardship role that consists of developing others and producing value through others. Wise leaders are discerning about the role they want to play; they have the self-awareness to know which roles they are fully qualified to assume and which ones are better left to others.
When leaders don’t know what they stand for, there’s no chance that the people around them will be able to work this out. In comparison, leaders who are clear on what they are about, including their personal values, will convey the kind of strength and integrity that inspires others to follow.
Great leaders infuse their role with enthusiasm and authenticity. They discipline themselves to focus on what works and tune out the noise.
WarningWhatever role they choose to perform, they project their authentic self — the true essence of their being — through that role and show genuine enthusiasm and a determination to get the best job done. In artistic terms, wise leaders bring credibility to their professional role by projecting their personal charisma and energy.
Seeking role clarity is a continuous process of developing oneself while developing others, a process that requires mindfulness to be effective and bear fruit.
Mindfulness allows you to pay attention to the changing context and see the role and the person playing the role distinctly and without prejudice. It allows you to be present and engaged as opposed to distracted.
Without clarity, we have no idea how we are making a difference and being successful in our value. As a leader, you need to put clarity into the bigger picture to unleash the drive within each team member to achieve their own personal success in the vision.
As humans, our greatest weakness can be that we have so many great ideas that we forget to focus on the proper steps to reach our goals.
WarningWe get so focus on the vision that we forget how to build a sturdy foundation so that our vision has strength to sustain the test of time. Great leaders focus on putting the right people in the right jobs and build your vision with clear purpose.
Many organizations try to do too much at one time. Their ambitious plans require people to divide their time and attention across too many disparate efforts.
It’s like standing in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet and thinking you can eat a lot of everything without growing ill. The results of taking on too much is that nothing gets done. People lose time when they’re forced to shift from one task to the next. Lost time lowers productivity, and leads to overwork as people try to make up the difference.
The same applies with communication. Most business owners have a lot of information they need to convey on a daily basis. As such, it’s important that you place the greatest focus on the most essential items. If you try to pass along too much information, your core message can get lost in the clutter. Keeping things simple will improve the quality of your communication and will help avoid misunderstandings.
Without alignment on what the challenge is and how to solve it, there is no alignment on priorities or what defines success.
Begin any strategic process by getting everyone on the same page — define your guiding light, your “north star.” Be open to pushback, hear what other stakeholders think, and work together to create the vision that best supports your company.
People become invested in the priorities they or their departments will ultimately be held accountable to deliver — but not everything will make the list.
WarningSometimes this causes people to be a little myopic of the bigger picture and executives to over-prioritize. To avoid this, all team members must own the whole before their piece and focus on what is mission critical for the whole enterprise.
Leaders put a high emphasis on building up teams and making sure that they are constantly improving the teamwork. Yet too often, they neglect communication as part of their teamwork efforts.
Excellent, accurate and timely communication is the key to team performance.
The ability to communicate information accurately and clearly is vital, but not sufficient. Communicating authentically and transparently, from a place of purpose and values, enables leaders to move from message transmittal to meaning generation.
Leaders must be willing to invest in themselves and cultivate skills such as reflection, attentiveness and open-mindedness.
Most importantly, they have to be willing to listen carefully and engage in deep inquiry, not just to hear others’ concerns and points of view, but also to build empathy for their experiences and perspectives.
In this fast-paced world of too much information, there tends to be an excessive emphasis on being brief instead of being clear. Business leaders who take the time to focus on quality communication skills will not only be more effective in their day-to-day activities, but will also set an example for others to follow.
When a leader starts firing off disconnected ideas, they tend to lose their street cred with their followers. This can leave others feeling disillusioned.
WarningA leader should always be creative but with a bit of precision in how they communicate their ideas. Not every idea is going to be a grand slam. You need to find focus on which ideas you bring to the table and communicate the ones you feel the strongest about to your team.
Authenticity counts — a lot. Be honest and sincere. Find your own voice; quit using corporate-speak or sounding like someone you’re not.
Let who you are, where you come from, and what you value come through in your communication. People want, respect, and will follow authentic leadership.
John F. Kennedy wrote that “leadership and learning and indispensable to one another”. Learning stimulates new thinking for leaders, and it helps them stay agile and full of energy.
Continual learning keeps leaders abreast of the happenings in their chosen fields. For leaders, learning needs to happen in an ongoing manner, ideally every day.
It also helps them acquire new insights in the arena of human psychology, a field they need to be well-informed about. Books written by established and reputed leaders also provide tremendous insight.
Leadership qualities may be inherited or attained. But what is certain is that leadership qualities can certainly be enhanced and the required skills can be learned and honed.
The ambition and the drive to better oneself is a prerequisite to becoming a good leader. A true leader is empathetic to her followers’ or team’s aspirations and shortcomings, and she uses their talents to guide them collectively toward achieving a higher goal.
Some of the most successful and busiest leaders on the planet, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, have an insatiable appetite for reading. They make time to read because they know how important reading is for learning and leadership.
Your team is only as good as your leadership. If you’re upgrading your skills, you pass these on to your team and that helps propel the business forward.
WarningSkills development isn’t just about technical skills. It can also be soft skills like interpersonal skills, negotiating skills, and adaptability.
Rigid leaders stagnate while open-minded and flexible leaders come up with creative solutions. Learning about new technology, methods, and techniques can prompt you to think outside the box.
Businesses that are innovative are often strides ahead of the competition. The secret to innovation is lifelong learning. That’s because learning opens your thinking to new ideas that can spark innovation.
The faster your organization grows in size, and the faster the work grows in complexity, the more it may feel like you don’t have time to sit down and give your team clarity. And yet, that’s when it becomes even more critical to have clarity.
It is not only the organization that benefits when leaders value clarity and encourage the teams to pursue it as well.
WarningOperating with greater clarity also pays back in personal dividends that begin to accrue almost immediately when leaders develop clarity-enabling personal habits. These habits include developing a daily mindfulness practice, operating with curiosity and humility, among others.
To be a leader with clarity is powerful and there is no limit to how far you will travel when you clearly see the path in front of you.
Clarity will never be perfect, but the more you can create it on your team, the more context people will share in making the hard calls, and the more everyone will keep moving toward a common north star — even if the path is a zigzag.
When you actively pursue and operate with greater clarity, you become a better person and a more productive and effective leader.
Clarity can lift the mind’s eye to a greater reality. There can be no cultivation of meaning without clarity.
Find your vision, chart your course, give your followers a plan for the bigger picture and set your sites of bringing your vision to reality.
If you’re a leader I wish you well in finding the clarity you need to perform your role well. I hope these 7 tips help you in this process. Feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss.
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.