5 Steps to Achieve Your Leadership Vision By Increasing Clarity
I almost died on June 9, 1993.
My dad fell asleep while driving our Ford Taurus on Interstate 40 in northern Arizona. Our car hit a highway sign at 70 miles per hour, flipped twice and landed on its side. Miraculously, my parents, brother and I crawled out the back window with only bumps and bruises.
Later, at the emergency room, we discovered that my blurry vision was not caused by a cut over my eye. I was near-sighted. I thought everyone had a hard time seeing the chalkboard in school! When I got my first pair of glasses a few weeks later, I discovered a new level of clarity. Wow, that’s what leaves look like! Cool, I can read billboards now!
Clarity within the workplace is like my life, pre-glasses. Some of us have never experienced it and we have no idea what we’re missing. But like my experience going from 20/200 to 20/20, clarity changes everything.
Our Teams Deserve Clarity
Our teams deserve clarity the same way I did as a third-grader. The people we lead need to know what’s important to us, what’s worth focusing on and what doesn’t matter.
How do we lead our people in a way so they’re not wondering what to do or where to focus? How do we lead them with a clear vision?
Five simple actions can transform your team’s vision.
1. Recognize clarity leaks.
You may have rolled out a new vision, messaging, or team focus. But one meeting doesn’t produce lasting clarity. Like a tire with a small leak, you have to refill your clarity bucket every day.
Samuel Johnson once said, “people need to be reminded more than instructed.” As the leader of your team, volunteers, area, etc., you are the CRO – Chief Reminding Officer. Creatively, you have to daily communicate clarity to your team.
In his best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly-Effective People, Steven Covey famously wrote, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
2. Implement clarity at every level.
The jury is still out over the effectiveness of trickle-down economics, but we do have a unanimous verdict on trickle-down clarity. There is no such thing as trickle-down clarity. Every level of your team needs to have clarity.
My friend Mike is the CEO of a construction company where he leads the new employee orientation when a new team member is hired. He is committed to communicating the values, vision and culture of their team to every employee. He builds and refines systems to maintain clarity for his entire team from top to bottom.
3. Beware of gaps between your words and actions as a leader.
If you’ve visited London you know the phrase “mind the gap.” This reminder echoes in “the tube,” London’s subway system, when you’re awaiting an arriving train. The announcement reminds you to mind the gap between the platform and the train as you board.
We must mind the gap between our words and actions as leaders. Our teams know we have to say certain things – after all, we’re the leaders! Your people will trust the stories you celebrate and the actions you reward more than your actual words in a meeting or other communications. Mind the gap and narrow it whenever and wherever you can.
4. Leverage crises and challenges to reinforce clarity.
My mentor always told me, “Don’t waste a good crisis. Don’t create one, but if one happens, milk it for all its worth.”
The way we respond in crisis communicates what we truly believe. We either reinforce our message or we confuse people, clouding our message. When someone we lead fails, we will communicate volumes in the way we treat them. When someone violates your values, you have a chance to show your team what those words really mean in action.
5. Wear down skeptics and cynics through patience and consistency.
I’m a recovering cynic. I can say with confidences that many cynics are simply idealistic people who refuse to be disappointed again.
Long-term team members may have seen multiple leaders, regime changes, and attempts at change. They may carry wounds and hurts they accumulated in the past, when “change” was simply lip service. If these people provide value to your team and have a place on the bus in the future, you can wear down their resistance with patience and commitment to executing new patterns.
Your grit and fidelity to your vision can transform your greatest critics into your greatest cheerleaders.
Four years ago I threw away my glasses and contacts. My doctor implanted corrective lenses onto my eyes, permanently transforming my vision from 20/400 to 20/15. I no longer need to reach for my glasses in the morning to see the clock. I don’t have to carry my contact lens case when I go out for the evening, worried that my eyes will rebel during dinner and demand glasses. The surgery changed the quality of my life.
Your team deserves the same kind of change. They need clarity, not uncertainty. They’ve experienced it in fleeting moments, and in bits and pieces. They don’t need to wonder anymore. They need you and your leadership to bring consistent clarity to their daily work.
Clarity changes everything.
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