Leadership Clarity: Are You Clear, Really Clear?

Most managers think they’re clear about what they want, but you’d be surprised how many I know confuse people. Without being really clear in our communications, we leave others to make assumptions and guesses. Leadership needs to be clear if it’s going to be effective.

Some of this is because managers make assumptions about what people should already know and understand… or maybe because they don’t want to repeat themselves.  But repetition is necessary to drive home what really matters.

It’s also because people come from different perspectives and view their work from entirely different angles than the boss does.

Embedding clarity in day-to-day operations requires focus and discipline. While clarity is an innate talent in some people, discipline and practice are often required to develop this quality in leaders.

Here are four questions to ask that will help any manager develop clarity in four key areas:

  1. Whom do we serve? Who are our customers? How can you define them based on what they want and/or need from us? To develop ideas for defining them with laser-sharp clarity, ask questions like: “What do our customers  get from us that has real value to them?” Compiling information from customers enables you to craft a vivid customer definition—one that helps your employees visualize clients and understand their concerns and values.
  2. What is our core strength? By defining your organization’s core strength, you educate your employees about how they will prevail in the future, using their edge to best competitors despite any obstacles. When a leader instills confidence in core strengths, resilience replaces anxiety about the future.
    As Marcus Buckingham, author of  The One Thing You Need to Know, states: “The strengths you pick don’t have to reflect current reality. You don’t have to be right. You just have to be clear. It is also essential that your people believe that you believe they can excel in the ways you’ve defined.
  3. What is our core score? To ensure clarity, avoid measuring several employee behaviors or skills at once. Senior management can track several scores, but leaders must define only the most important core score for employees to achieve focus. Make sure the selected behavior falls under employees’ control, as they must have the power to influence their scores. Select a metric that fits the customer or  quantifies the group’s core score.
  4. What actions can we take today? Symbolic action occurs when a particular goal is achieved to create confidence and success. Systematic actions include new activities that focus on the needs of customers, highlight core strengths and lead to success on core metrics. Symbolic and systematic actions serve as behavior plans to success.

What do you think about these four questions about clarity? Can you answer them without having to think too much?

Who is your customer? What is your core strength, your competitive advantage? (I also like to ask this question in this form: “What is your company’s higher purpose, the reason you exist?”)

What can you measure that shows you’re accomplishing that purpose? And, what action are you taking today to go in the right direction? The clearer you are about these answers, the easier it is for everybody in the company to follow suit.

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