Why Leaders Need To Create Clarity

The FranklinCovey group calls it “Clarify Purpose”. Microsoft labels it as “Create Clarity”. In one of the most watched TED Talks of all time, leadership thought leader and speaker, Simon Sinek, stresses that the best leaders Start with Why”. Regardless of the exact wording, the leadership principle rings true across a multitude of platforms – direction. Teams benefit from, thrive on and crave direction from their leaders. 

Franklin Covey Leadership Imperatives        Microsoft Leadership Principles
Where are we going? Why? Who is doing what? What is most important right now? How do I best contribute my part? 
These are the questions that arise repeatedly over time and grab the attention of our team members. If left unanswered or assumed to be known, these questions often lead to misalignment on a team and the preventable friction, waste and performance drag that ensues. 
In his book, “The 8th Habit”, Dr. Steven Covey quoted the results of a Harris Poll of workers in the U.S.A across key industries and functional areas finding:
  • Only 37 percent of those polled, said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why.
  • Only 1 in 5 was enthusiastic about their team’s and organization’s goals.
  • Only 1 in 5 workers said they have a clear “line of sight” between their tasks and their team’s and organizational goals.
  • Only half were satisfied with the work they have accomplished at the end of the week.
  • Only 15 percent felt that their organization fully enables them to execute key goals.
  • Only 15 percent felt they worked in a high-trust environment.
  • Only 17 percent felt their organization fosters open communication and better ideas
  • Only 10 percent felt that their organization holds people accountable for results.
  • Only 20 percent fully trusted the organization they work for.
  • Only 13 percent have high-trust, highly cooperative working relationships with other groups or departments.

Covey goes on to equate these results to a soccer team by describing the team as having only four of the eleven players on the field knowing which goal was theirs. Only two of the eleven would care. Only two of the eleven would know what position they play and know exactly what they are suppose to do. And all but two players would, in some way, be competing against their own team rather than the opponent.
With the rapid pace of change and shifting nature of priorities, how are we as leaders supposed to keep the team aligned, motivated and performing?
  1. First, assess your reality. Zoom out and ask yourself: Do I have a fully engaged and productive team? Do they really know why they are at work each day? Do they have the skills and resources to accomplish what is expected of them? 
  2. Second, ask your team regularly about their priorities. Here’s a short (3-minute) video on the power of a quick weekly check in and how to best structure it. 
  3. Third, check out this quick video book summary for a simple tool to track your own priorities and review your team’s individual priorities with you as well.

To use an old analogy, if you stopped and asked one of your employees what they were doing, would they say they are pilling bricks one on top of the other? Would they say they are building a wall? Or would they say they are building a cathedral? If your goal is to build the cathedral then you want to make sure your employees know just what the cathedral is to look like.
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”        -Yogi Berra