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Leadership Thought #212 – Achieving Clarity Is A Leadership Responsibility

September 13, 2011

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Leaders need to see providing organizational clarity as one of their top responsibilities.

If you ask the average employee of the typical company why the company exists, what sets it apart from its competition, what its core values are, and where it is 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 not committed to or are undisciplined at providing organizational clarity. They assume that their people should just “get it” or get easily bored by making the same points repeatedly, or frankly are muddled in their own thinking about these very issues.

Many 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.  They lose patience with the work required to get everyone on the same page.  It can start to feel arduous and uninspiring.  However, there is no more important job for a leader than to ensure clarity about the mission, vision, values, competitive positioning, and direction of the company.   You need to have everyone grounded in the “what,” “why” and “how” of the organization.

Without this information, employees are simply making it up as they go along or reacting to events as they unfold rather than proactively making the “right” things happen.  It has been said that once you add your first employee, you’ve already entered the realm of differing opinions and perceptions about what needs to be done and by when.  The sad fact is that most employee stress is related to their own confusion about their role, how they are performing in this role, whether they feel part of something bigger than themselves, and how they plug into the big picture of the company and its success.  Additionally, when employees don’t have this information, they tend to jump to flawed conclusions that hinder progress.

Leaders have every opportunity to address basic communication issues on a consistent and regular basis.  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; but it worked.  People 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.   Jack was a master communicator, and this offers an excellent example of a leader providing clarity for the average employee and stakeholder.

I encourage you to make achieving organizational clarity a top priority.  Even if you are not the CEO or business owner, you can provide 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.

The question you must ask yourself is this – “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 is all about commitment and discipline.  As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road can take you there.”  The compounding problem is that everyone involved with the company will also be on their own often different journey.