Clarity improves productivity, determination, and engagement. I hope that much is obvious.
Unfortunately, you don’t see the disclarity you’ve always lived with. It’s like being in a smoky room. Or a house that smells like last night’s dinner. You get used to it. It’s not until you leave and return from the fresh air outside that your nose crinkles.
Disclarity works the same way. It is hard to recognize without that contrast. And, if it surrounds you, if it permeates your organization’s activities, where is the contrast?
Many people experience snippets of clarity here and there while at work, but few stop to examine what just happened. Instead, they are delighted with the speed, the answers, and the progress. Those who attend sessions I facilitate are amazed by how much we accomplish. Once you witness sufficient examples of clarity driving rapid progress and creating strong commitment, you start to recognize the level of disclarity surrounding you. These are the readers who write me and beg me to fix their companies. These are the CEOs who call on Monday morning. They feel it. They are frustrated by the disclarity. But they know that no matter how clear they are, they aren’t in a position and don’t have the ability to synchronize the thoughts and energy of others in order to create the amazing speed and buy-in that results from clarity.
The first requirement to achieving ultra productive clarity is to see the pervasive disclarity. The second step is to get more specific, to see the cause of the disclarity – to hear the words that are vague, the conversations that wander, and the words that aren’t said. Only then, once you and your employees have obtained this awareness, can you see the need to change behaviors and develop the necessary skills to create ultra productive clarity.
The purpose of these Quarterly Clarity Weeks is to help you and your employees see what you aren’t seeing. Each quarter, I provide one simple exercise that you can focus on over the course of one week. The next month, I follow up with comments and suggestions. I welcome your reactions in between.
Thus, the goal for this week is to learn to distinguish between a truly focused meeting and the other 97%. The one that has laser sharp focus and those that are well-intentioned, but splintered. The one that is ultra-productive and those that are merely interesting and well behaved.The one that nails tangible outcomes in rapid sequence and those that scatter buck shot, hitting some objectives, creating others, missing more, and taking way too much time.
A Simple Exercise
The exercise is simple, but not easy. To maximize the value, ask your entire team to give it a try:
- Select a meeting where you can just listen and not worry about the content or participating. If this means joining a meeting you don’t normally attend, do it. If two of you can attend the same meeting, you’ll be able to compare notes afterwards.
- Listen super carefully. See how many distinct decisions, plans, and problems are interwoven in the “focused” discussion. At first, you may hear only one topic of conversation. Give yourself time. Don’t react to the content. Listen for distinct topics.
- If you count fewer than five threads for one agenda item, you just aren’t trying. Keep practicing.
- After your team has tried this a couple of times, compare notes. Share your lists. What have you learned?
To clarify this idea of multiple distinct threads masquerading as one, consider the number of decisions and plans that crop up when someone mentions buying a car to a group of friends or co-workers. Here are a few likely threads to get you started:
- Whether to buy a car
- Whether to replace an existing car
- Whether that car will be used for the same purpose as the one it would replace
- Which criteria are essential: budget, size, and other considerations
- Which criteria are preferred: color, mileage, repair record, and other considerations
- Which makes and models to consider
- Whether to buy or lease
- Whether to trade the current car or sell it privately
- How to finance the new car
- Ways to get the best price when buying, as well as when selling
- How to avoid problems encountered by participants with their current cars
- Types of cars currently desired by participants
- Which dealers are best
Once you’ve tried this experiment a few times, feel free to email or call and tell me what you’ve learned.
Declare a Clarity Week now! Use this exercise to help your team see the disclarity that sucks up precious time every hour of every day.
Previous Clarity Week suggestions: