Three Reasons Clarity is Crucial

by Jul 1, 2016

Clarity. Strategy. Motion.

The three phases of any initiative involve clarity, strategy and motion. Skip a phase and there will be gaps and missing elements that will threaten your success.

  • Clarity is about getting to the bottom of things and developing a deep understanding of who you are, who you will serve and how you hope to do it. It’s where your mission and values live and where vision is born.
  • Strategy is the roadmap that gives more specific direction so you can move towards your milestones and reach your destination.
  • And then motion is actual getting in the car and taking off. 

The vast majority of the people who come to me for help have started in the ‘motion’ phase and are somewhat stumbling around, not sure of their next step. Skipping right over clarity and strategy, they don’t realize they are putting on a blindfold and hoping to have a successful journey.

You see the problem.

If you don’t know where and why you are going, how will you know what steps you need to take, you have veered off course or when you’ve arrived? and…what motivates you to start the journey at all?

clarity is crucialI get it…and I do it myself. We get excited about a new project or business and want to get it off the ground as soon as possible. So we run, jump and leap forward only to find we need to play catch up later.

Related: Time for a values check-up?

3 Reasons Clarity is Crucial

Clarity defines the playing field that allows creativity to flourish. It also helps people feel safe and on the same page. Here are three reasons you need to do the work to get clear about your business

1Clarity Replaces Stress With Peace & Confidence

Though not always obvious on the surface, the lack of clarity can cause a vague sense of confusion and uncertainty to blanket the whole organization. In the absence of clear direction and knowing the ‘why’, everyone is left to do what feels right to them and to figure out how it all fits together, which can be very stressful. 

  • What if I get it wrong? 
  • What if it’s not where they want to go?
  • What if I overstep my bounds?

There is a confidence and freedom that comes when you know where you stand and where you are going. Clarity removes that nagging ‘what if’ anxiety that keeps people jumping from thing to thing.

Clarity also provides a rallying point for when things get tough by reminding us of why we signed up and giving us the juice to keep going. It gives us the confidence to stay our ground during conflict and to fight for ourselves and our ideas when necessary. 

2Clarity Creates a Framework for Decision-Making

We know that decisions can’t be made in a vacuum. Yet, when you don’t have a clear, solid framework that outlines your mission, goals and values, decision-making is left to subjective criteria and how you happen to feel in the moment.

Doing the work to gain clarity answers the big questions, which inform the smaller ones. It makes it easier to say ‘yes’ to what fits and confidently say ‘no’ to what doesn’t. It creates a fantastic rubric for strategic planning, goals-setting, crafting protocols & policies, hiring decisions and conflict resolution.

3Clarity Motivates Everyone to Reach Higher

Within minutes of chatting with employees or volunteers, it’s fairly easy to see how much work management has done/not done to create clarity in an organization.

  • Is morale low?
  • Do people accomplish the bare minimum?
  • Is there bickering and backbiting?
  • Are teams unproductive and dysfunctional?

A lack of clarity creates all of these sad scenarios.

Think about clarity like it’s nourishment. Withhold it and you create an environment where people cannot thrive. They become territorial, defensive, cynical and hold on to their projects in a ‘cover-my-ass’ fashion. Why should they do more than the bare minimum? Why should they be extra creative and work to solve problems? It becomes safer just to lower your head and do what’s in front of you.

But…add a little clarity and you will see people respond like flowers getting a fresh drink of water. It feeds the soul of your people and, ultimately, the organization. People begin to feel like they are part of something bigger, which empowers them to do better work.

  • Expectations are clear
  • Direction is clear
  • Pathways to manage conflict is clear
  • Goals are clear

Just like values, clarity (or the lack) trickles down from the top. You can’t expect employees or volunteers to understand or be motivated if you haven’t clarified things in your own mind.

“What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. If you want people to change, you must provide crystal-clear direction.” — Chip & Dan Heath, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard 

A Word of Caution

For entrepreneurs and senior leaders, sometimes a lack of clarity paralyzes us…or can become a convenient excuse for why we aren’t moving. Don’t mistake my call for clarity to mean will will always know the details about the future. Clarity isn’t so much about having every detail figured out, as it is about understanding.

Plus, gaining clarity isn’t just a one-time exercise, but is something that you need to be thinking about all the time. It often comes on the journey as we take the steps to move forward. Clarity comes from engaging in the work and with your people. It comes by getting feedback and trying things out…not from sitting on the sidelines.

My hope here is not for you to be afraid to make a move without everything being tied up in a nice neat little bow, but for you to buy-in to the importance of clarity. Search for it, watch for it and know the signs when it doesn’t exist. The health of your people and your organization are counting on it.

Images by Udo Schotten

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