If there was one aspect that is critical to all facets of life, it has to be clarity.
Think of all the times you’ve been to the shop after a simple item, such as milk, only to be confronted with low-fat, no-fat, high-calcium, lactose-free (just like the ad), to pick one, hope its correct and then having to do the walk of shame back into the store as you’ve selected the wrong one.
Or that project that seemed to be going fine, then all of a sudden blew up and it was a nightmare to fix.
Clarity is an amazing thing that brings simplicity, better outcomes and makes life significantly easier.
Without clarity there is a jumble of confusion, frustration, helplessness and if not corrected, failure. Without it, there is little point continuing.
You will simply burn time, money and your reserves for dealing with stress.
Be careful to recognise that this is not bidirectional. Confusion and frustration do not necessarily mean the cause is a lack of clarity. This is often stated and it is much easier than actually spending time to diagnose the real problem.
If there is no strategic insight, long term plans nor goals for the future it is likely due to a lack of clarity, but if any of those exist you need to investigate further.
My eyes were opened to the massive importance of clarity after attending a training session with Greg McKeown, an amazing individual and a writer for the HBR.
One of Greg’s more popular articles, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, has quickly become a modern classic, focusing on clarity and the distractions from it.
Unfortunately unclear situations arise too often but there are techniques to tackle it
- It seems obvious but its amazing how many people don’t do this.
- Do not assume that the higher-ups hold the tablets of wisdom. They will however have some of the answers.
- Asking the question shows your concern and highlights the stake you have in the company’s future.
- In times of uncertainty most leaders will understand your concerns and be willing to spend time to answer questions. Do not take this for granted rather plan your questions in advance and pick a time that suits them.
- e.g. Friday at 4pm is usually a bad idea
- You may not like the answers but it will leave you in a more informed position than before.
- In the absence of a plan, make one.
- A lack of clarity makes you feel very insecure and helpless. A quick and easy way to regain control is to map out the possible alternative futures, what may occur and your corresponding action plans.
- Drawing a decision tree is a simple way to do this with each branch spurring other possibilities until you can progress no further. You can find out more info here. You don’t need to follow all the details, just think through the outcomes, options and actions.
- This is extremely powerful as it instantly gives you control.
- Leaders will often put up time frames on when to expect further clarity, which is particularly common during acquisitions.
- Monitor the progress towards clarity as these dates approach, if they do not become clearer or keep sliding back, revisit your plan.
- As a last resort or in certain uncontrollably circumstances (e.g. macro economic) it may be best to accept the uncertainty. This can bring a feeling of Zen but it rarely progresses you so do be careful.
Clarity is extremely important and the above can help you move through it when it is forced upon you. My next post will flip this around, talking about how leaders can build and maintain clarity so to avoid this problem before it arises.