“I hadn’t realized how entrenched I was in so many time-wasting habits until Ann Latham made them transparent. It’s almost embarrassing,” said Jim Goodwin, CEO of CHD.
Just a few days ago, I talked with another client who told me that after working with me, he can’t not see the lack of clarity surrounding him. The lack of specificity, the lack of cognitive process clarity, and the lack of effective communication that are so ubiquitous. The language that drives activity, not results. The time-wasting habits so firmly entrenched in business-as-usual. The disclarity that was completely invisible to him before, and that is now so transparently an obstacle to progress.
I share these examples to demonstrate that just because you are a competent, successful, hard-working leader, like these two, doesn’t mean you are aware of the disclarity around you. We are all blind to many things until we learn to see differently. I joke that I must never have had anything bigger than a 16 pack of Crayolas because that’s about the extent of my color vocabulary and perception. To me, there are primary colors, secondary colors, black, white, and diluted versions of those first seven – light green, light blue, pale yellow, pink, and the like. The same applies to cars. Ironically, color is one of the two automobile differentiators I use. There are big red cars and little red cars. Big blue cars and little blue cars. I don’t care about cars, so I’ve never learned to recognize one from another.
Clarity blindness is no different from these examples. If you can’t see the disclarity surrounding you, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. But once you see it, you can’t not see it. It’s like donning your first pair of eyeglasses and seeing the individual leaves on the trees and the details on the mountainside for the first time. You can take the glasses off, but once you’ve seen the details, you know they are there and you are eager to put the glasses on again.
Once disclarity becomes visible and you develop the skills to create clarity, you, like my client Jim, may very well feel embarrassed by your former blindness and time-wasting habits, but don’t! Instead, celebrate the fact that you are now competent, successful, hard-working, and uncommonly clear!
Disclarity is so common and so unrecognized that there wasn’t even a word to describe this phenomenon, so I coined the term. Disclarity tells it like it is. ‘A lack of clarity’ is too cumbersome, as well as too generous by making it sound like just ‘a little something’ is missing. It’s worse than that, guys.
So What Does Uncommon Clarity Feel Like?
Think of the times when you know exactly what you need to accomplish by the end of the next hour, how to proceed, and with whom you must work. You know what ‘done’ looks like. You know how to get there. You get ‘in the zone’ and fly. You are ultra-productive, decisive, and confident. You leap tall buildings in a single bound. You crush obstacles one by one. It feels great, doesn’t it? That is what uncommon clarity feels like!
Disclarity is the exact opposite. This is what disclarity feels like this:
- ‘Wandering in’ without a plan or clear idea of what must be different when you are done.
- Speaking in Treadmill Verbs like ‘report’ and ‘review’ that invite people to talk forever without a clear destination in mind.
- Conflating the steps of cognitive processes such as decision making in chaotic conversation.
- Wondering why others ‘just don’t get it.’
- Struggling to walk the line between micro-management and the crossed fingers of hope.
- Spending hours in meetings that accomplish far too little.
- Revisiting decisions that you thought were made.’
- Trying to create buy-in from the outside in with persuasion (and manipulation) instead of from the inside out.
- Involving too many people in decisions out of fear of naysayers and no sound, accepted criteria for deciding whom to include.
- Getting sucked into decisions that ought to be made without you.
- Putting up with difficult and misplaced employees out of discomfort, fear, guilt, and no clear method for moving forward.
- Investing huge sums in internally focused programs like employee engagement programs in the hopes that they are the silver bullet.
- Wasting time seeking permission when it adds no value.
- Solving problems that were supposed to be solved already.
Disclarity is no fun. With disclarity, no one gets to spend much time ‘in the zone.’ My clients and surveys tell me that the average amount of time employees feel, and are, truly productive is less than two hours a day. No wonder employees are disengaged! No wonder profits and performance suffer!
It doesn’t have to be this way. But you must start by seeing the disclarity around you. Once you see it, you can change it. Learn to create significantly greater specificity and shared process clarity to eliminate all 14 signs of disclarity. You will improve profits, boost employee engagement, and increase your own worth as an amazing leader able to unwind the maze of disclarity surrounding you — a leader with uncommon clarity.
Ann Latham is an expert in strategic clarity and the author of The Clarity Papers. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/The-Clarity-Papers.
This article first appeared on Forbes, February 4th, 2018.