10X Your Leadership Impact – Create Clarity

By: Suzanne Qualia - Published on February 13th, 2024

Many leaders I work with who are striving to elevate their impact in motivating and engaging their teams often focus on the areas of setting expectations, holding accountabilities, and providing recognition and feedback. While these important and helpful leader behaviors get you 80 yards down field toward the endzone, the ability to ultimately score lies with the leadership behavior of providing clarity.

What does it mean to provide “clarity” as a leader? Why is it important and how does a leader achieve clarity with colleagues, peers, and team members?

That’s what we’ll explore in this month’s topic.

Let’s delve into this topic of “clarity” utilizing the 4M framework: Meaning, Mindsets, Motivations, and Methods.

Meaning:

What does clarity mean? At its simplest, clarity is about being understandable, transparent, and free from ambiguity or confusion.

From a leadership perspective, there are two main aspects to consider: At one level, it’s about knowing the bigger purpose, vision, mission, and how the high-level business strategy achieves that mission and purpose. The second aspect to providing clarity is to help team members define how their work contributes to the bigger purpose.

What clarity IS: Creating connection – generating energy, motivation, innovation, creativity, and passion for the work that needs to get done using mission, vision, purpose, business strategy, and core values of the organization as the bigger “why.”

What clarity is NOT: Micromanaging – telling direct reports how to complete a project or task by outlining detailed steps.
To avoid crossing the line between clarity and micromanaging, focus on the bigger picture, higher level strategy, mission and purpose; don’t focus on execution-level thinking.

Mindsets:

What keeps leaders from providing clarity? See if any of these might apply to you or your current work situation:

  • Assumptions – “Because I know, everyone knows.” Leaders make the common mistake of knowing the bigger purpose and the bigger why, but then assume everyone also knows.
  • The day-to-day whirlwind – Getting caught up in the day-to-day whirlwind keeps leaders from elevating their focus on the bigger picture, higher vision, and key business strategies. It’s no wonder that providing that clarity fades in priority.
  • Too much time in the weeds – Leaders who find themselves in the role of subject matter expert (SME) vs. leader (by choice or design) aren’t focusing on the bigger picture and connecting the dots at a higher level for themselves or others.

What mindsets support leaders in providing clarity? How can you shift into a clarity mindset?

  • Commitment – You must commit yourself to the bigger “why” and the mission, vision and strategy of the organization and, more importantly, the path to get there. The highest levels of commitment are achieved via robust problem-solving including debate, ideological dialog, and handling of conflict. This all leads to a strong shared commitment. With this commitment, you’re authentically armed to guide your colleagues and team members to finding clarity in their work.
  • Autonomy – Knowing and understanding where the lines of authority and accountability are and being able to articulate these with the team.
  • Confidence – Having confidence in understanding and clearly articulating the mission, the bigger why, and the purpose, and how it’s built on a foundation of autonomy and commitment.

Motivations:

Why does providing clarity as a leader matter?

Korn Ferry, a global organizational consulting firm, reveals in their Organizational Climate research and assessment tools that “organizational climate is one of the most accurate measures of leadership effectiveness.” Korn Ferry’s research has identified six leadership behaviors that matter most in creating a positive organizational climate that influences, engages, and motivate the team to do their best work.

Of these six behaviors, they cite the leadership behavior of clarity to be the most important of all the climate dimensions. The presence of clarity is the key indicator of overall climate health. They also go on to say that “providing high levels of clarity is harder than ever to create and maintain in today’s rapidly changing business context, especially in flat, matrix structures and diverse, global teams. Most leaders find that clarity requires constant attention and effort.”

If that much attention and effort need to be focused on clarity, what are some ways that leaders can provide clarity to their teams? Which leads us to method. What are some ways to bring about clarity for the team?

Methods:

1. Leaders go first.

As with most things, leaders must go first. What does this mean? Some areas to consider:

  • You must first be clear on what the overall direction and vision is and how your team fits into that picture.
  • What is your level of commitment to the organizational strategy and the key initiatives to get there? If not a “10”, what keeps it from being a “10”? Commitment is a key precursor to clarity (Lencioni, “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team”). Without your honest commitment to the direction established and where the company is headed, it will be hard to achieve the levels of transparency and clarity required for your team. Engage in open and honest dialog with your leader and colleagues until commitment is reached.

2. Assess where clarity exists and where it doesn’t for your team.

Ask questions, don’t assume. Here are some questions to ask your team to assess what’s helpful or needed. Your specific situation might generate additional questions to add to the list.

a. What is the overall strategy, direction and goals of the organization? How does this support our mission?

If the team member is unclear, you might ask: What would help you understand this more?

b. How does our team contribute to achieving the overall strategy of the organization? How does your work specifically contribute to achieving our team contribution?

As with the earlier question, if unclear, you might ask: What’s unclear about how our team contributes to the overall organizational strategy? What would help you understand this more?

c. What inspires and motivates you in your work?

Look for connections to the bigger mission and purpose of the company, and if not present, coach the team member to find their own purpose and meaning in their work and the connection to the higher vision.

d. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being high, how well do you know what’s expected of you in your role/this project?

The beauty and power of this scaling question is that no matter what answer is provided, there is a built-in next question, which spurs the needed deeper dialog and exploration. For example, let’s say someone answers “x.” The two built-in follow-up questions are: “What makes it an ‘x’?” and, even more importantly, “What would make it a an ‘x+1’?” Another great question might be: “What keeps your clarity around expectations from being a 10?” What will help in aligning our expectations together?

3. Reinforce strategy and direction.

Use team meetings, project meetings and 1:1’s to remind team members of the overall company strategy, direction and goals and how the team and department work connects. Check-in on understanding of expectations on projects and initiatives. Keep a pulse on things by using the assessment questions like those mentioned earlier.

 

In conclusion, the payoffs for mastering the leadership behavior of providing clarity are huge. It is the key indicator and contributor to positive organizational climates and culture which, in turn, creates high levels of innovation, motivation, engagement and the ability for your team to continue to outpace their objectives achieving greater results.

If a complimentary 30-minute strategy session would be helpful as a next step to upleveling your skills in leading with clarity, click here. Let’s do this!