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Leadership Thought #212 – Achieving Clarity Is A Leadership Responsibility


If you ask the average employee of the typical company why the company exits, what sets it apart from its competition, what its core values are and where it’s going, you’ll often get a blank stare or confused answer.  Why is this?  Why is information that is so basic to any level of organizational success, often lost in translation?  The answer is simple.  The leaders of most organizations are poorly committed and/or undisciplined when it comes to providing organizational clarity.  They make false assumptions, assume that their people should just “get it”, are easily bored by making the same points repeatedly, or quite frankly are muddled in their own thinking about these very issues.  Leaders tend to get fascinated by the new and different rather than ensuring that the foundation they are building on is secure and devoid of cracks or flaws.

There is no more important job of a leader that providing clarity about the mission, vision, values, competitive positioning and direction of the company.  Without this information, employees are simply making it up as they go along and/or reacting to events as they occur rather that proactively making the “right” things happen.  Its’ been said that once you add your first employee you’ve already entered the realm of differing opinions and perceptions about what needs to get done and by when.  The sad fact is that most employee stress is directly related to their own confusion about their role, how they are performing in this role, whether or not they feel part of something bigger than themselves, and how they plug into the big picture of the company and its success.   An equally troubling reality for leaders is that when employees don’t have this information they tend to make up their own answers, which can often involve factually flawed interpretations or negative assumptions.

Leaders have every opportunity to address basic communication issues on a consistent and regular basis (but most of them don’t).  Jack Welch is famous for saying that he would repeat the vision, values and direction of the company so often that he would often feel sick at the sound of his own voice saying the same thing; yet it worked.  Employees knew where the company was going and why, what it stood for and how they fit into the culture and big picture.   Moreover, many people who were only outside observers of the company could often provide you with much of this information as well.   We all have some flaws, but he was a master communicator and provided pretty high levels of clarity for the average employee and stakeholder.

The question you have to ask yourself as leader is that if someone can achieve reasonable clarity running a global company with hundreds of thousands of employees, then why can’t we do the same thing within our own small company?  It’s all about commitment and discipline.

Consumer behavior specialists know that the average person needs to hear a message at least seven times before it begins to register and seventeen times before it actually resonates.  It’s also important to use many different communication platforms to enhance the individual’s ability to absorb the information.  We are fortunate that besides the limited communication options of our predecessors (that included face to face communication, regular mail and telephones); we have the internet, email, enhanced teleconferencing and video capabilities, and multiple social media tools.  There is literally no excuse not to communicate effectively to our employees, stakeholders and customers.

I encourage you to make achieving organizational clarity a top priority.  Even if you are not the CEO or business owner, you can get answers to the basic questions every employee needs to know to be successful.  Don’t let up.  Don’t assume that you are ever finished keeping everyone on the same page.  Communication is an on-going responsibility that every leader must embrace if they want to achieve enduring success.

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2 Responses

  1. This is a super call to action. People throughout an organization can play a starring role in making organizational clarity a priority.

    There are some surprising and often counter-intuitive aspects to organizational clarity.

    This two minute video explores the role story can play in helping managers navigate the chaos and ambiguity:

    Terrence Gargiulo
    WEB: makingstories.net
    BLOG: makingstories-storymatters.blogspot.com/
    TWITTER: twitter.com/makingstories
    PHONE: 415-948-8087

  2. […] Leadership Thought #212 – Achieving Clarity Is A Leadership Responsibility (edrobinson.wordpress.com) […]

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