If we could choose one superpower to gift our clients, it would be the power of clarity. The reason? Because it underpins all our work, and all of theirs.
Clarity is the quality or condition of being clear or easy to understand. Think about that for a moment. Finding the thread of truth, the single most important aspect of a situation without the distraction and noise surrounding it. It’s that distraction and noise that often get in the way of solutions.
No matter what the subject or challenge, the key to finding a successful path forward depends on the level of clarity that can be reached. We must be able to clearly understand and articulate the issue at hand before we can design the most effective response. Here are a few key steps that can help you do that.
1. Clear away the noise.
In order to find clarity, we need to simplify. And although that may seem like an easy thing to do, simplifying is one of ‘the’ most difficult tasks we have as leaders. Our work is rarely straightforward and often is made up of many layers. Layers of stakeholders, agendas, histories, and timelines to name a few. Then add to that the complexities of the external environments we work within, and things can quickly become complicated.
Our first step is to focus on what ‘really matters’. What is the most important piece of the puzzle? What is the main objective at the root of all the action? Try to filter out the politics and opinions and deal with facts. Facts you can impact, politics and opinion are moving targets.
2. Articulate the issue.
Now that the noise is gone, we can take an honest look at what we’re dealing with. And if we are going to be able to achieve understanding and alignment from all those involved, we need to be able to articulate (that means ‘writing it down’ clearly on paper) what it is we are facing. We can’t solve something that we can’t describe.
The litmus test of this exercise is to be able to bring someone in from outside the organization that has no knowledge of what’s going on, and in two minutes or less be able to communicate to them clearly enough that they can understand the issue. If we can’t do that, we’re not clear enough.
Once we’ve captured that clear concise description, it must be used consistently throughout the process. Otherwise, we run the risk of allowing the complexities and distractions to creep back in.
3. Identify the one most important step you can take.
Now that we’ve isolated the issue, regardless of all the agendas involved in the greater conversation, it’s critical that we decide on the most important step that we can take next to move the needle.
And take it!
We’ll have to resist the desire to build out the entire plan of action. In situations of complexity, it’s often a better strategy to tackle the first few steps one at a time to ensure you’re on the right track. Sometimes the act and time required to build out an entire action plan can add complexity back into the picture we just streamlined. And by the time the plan is built, things could have shifted again.
4. Rinse and repeat.
Once we’ve implemented whatever that critical first step is, it’s important that we revisit the concise description of the issue we began with to assess the progress we’ve made or haven’t, and why. This reassessment will help us determine if we’re heading in the right direction or need to adjust.
If it looks as if we’re making progress towards our goal, then we can consider getting the next steps identified and down on paper in the form of a plan of action. If not, we need to consider the ‘why’ and adjust accordingly.
The bottom line is without being able to clearly and concisely describe our issue/challenge, we are at the mercy of being pulled further and further into the weeds, feeling frustrated and wasting precious time and resources. It takes intention and discipline to step away from the noise, but that is where the power of leadership lies.
Mystification is simple; clarity is the hardest thing of all.
Having knowledge but lacking the power to express it clearly is
no better than never having any ideas at all.