When a group of people at work achieve real clarity on a topic or decision, your enterprise will begin to operate on a much higher level.

Ingaging Leadership

Achieving Clarity: Part One

An excerpt from my forthcoming book Ingaging Leadership: The Ultimate Guide

by Evan Hackel

To me, it’s amazing how many people don’t take the time to arrive at genuine clarity about important topics or business problems.

Clarity is one of my favorite topics.

Maybe it’s because we live in an overly casual time when many people believe they can move forward without taking the time to explore a topic with great understanding. We seem to think a pretty good grasp of a topic is good enough. I also think that a certain element of “faking it” comes into play for many people who are pretending to be experts in certain topic areas, when they are not.

They fear that if they say to a group of colleagues, “Let’s study and understand this topic more,” they will be telling those people that they do not already know everything there is to know. They reason that it is better to play the role of an expert than it is to become one.

In other words, they are faking it instead of investing in genuine learning. And when that kind of thinking becomes common in an organization, it cannot perform at the highest level of efficiency. Mediocrity sets in and becomes the norm.

Clarity Is a Result of High-Level Communication

You might think that clarity naturally results when you study and explore . . . after you devote a significant amount of time to investigate a topic, you will arrive at a high level of understanding about it.

That might be true to a certain extent. But in my view, it is different to be an expert than it is to have true clarity on a topic. You see, being educated about something is different from having clarity about it.

Having clarity means many things, including:

  • You have the big picture. You can conceptualize an issue by weighing a number of trends and forces that are taking place simultaneously. Other people might see only one or two options for actions to take, but you can consider many ideas and approaches at the same time.
  • You are not tied to current trends and fads. Perhaps other members of your team conceptualize a problem as, “We have to take either Plan One or Plan Two.” But if you have true clarity, you will see a wider range of possible actions and be able to weigh and choose among them.
  • You bring calm assurance to a group or team that is trying to decide what to do. Other people will look to your leadership as a foundation for weighing the right information, making the right decisions, and implementing the right plans.

Communicating to Build Clarity

  • Discuss why the project or topic you are discussing is important. As in any business activity, people need to understand the importance of what they are doing. And even better, become ingaged to the point where they are driven by a sense of urgency.
  • Explain why the topic under discussion matters to the people you are talking to and working with. It could position your employees and your entire enterprise to enter a new and higher sphere of activity.
  • Tell people everything you know, think, and believe about the topic or activity. When you are offering an opinion, say “What I am about to tell you is an opinion.” But don’t only talk at people. Start a vibrant, two-way conversation in which people are open to express their beliefs, observations, knowledge, and opinions.
  • When you make a statement, ask people to repeat back to you what you just said. The result will be a growing, pooled field of shared clarity that surrounds the topic.
  • Invite comments and criticism about what you have said. The point is to move toward a better understanding of a topic, not to be right or wrong.
  • Confirm that communication is happening. You can say, for example, “Could you please repeat back to me and explain what I just said?”
  • Ask probing questions, like, “Do you think I correctly understand and frame the issue we are talking about?” or, “Do you think I understand it?” Get your ego out of the equation and focus on results, not on who is right or wrong.
  • Take pains to cultivate trust by showing that you are exploring a topic in an atmosphere that is free of guilt. One way is to openly admit it when you have not been paying close enough attention to what has been said. You can say, for example, “I am sorry. My mind started to wander. Could you go back over that point you just made?”
  • Listen on a deep and committed level. You need to commit to this, because you are engaging in a shared effort to arrive at clarity about an issue.

In Summary . . .

The goal, is not to erect a false stage set where everyone pretends to be perfect in their ability to hear, contribute or be clear.

When a group of people at work achieve real clarity on a topic or decision, your enterprise will begin to operate on a much higher level.

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