Clarity: How Smart Leaders Achieve Outstanding Performance

clarity

Achieve Outstanding Performance

Lean management expert Karen Martin tackles the problem so many organizations and leaders face: a lack of clarity. In her new book, Clarity First: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance, she gives specific recommendations on how to improve clarity and thus your overall performance.

The book helps leaders identify the organization’s purpose, set priorities, and build problem solving capabilities while developing personal clarity to be a more effective leader.

I recently spoke with Karen about the importance of clarity and the role it plays in leadership and organizational success.

 

“Clarity, in contrast, feeds an organization in the same way that fertilizer feeds soil.” -Karen Martin

 

The Importance of Clarity

What are some of the effects of a lack of clarity?

Lack of clarity touches organizations in small, daily ways and in large ways that introduce risks to customer satisfaction, the employee experience, the balance sheet, and compliance. An example of a “small” issue might be a customer problem that remains unsolved because no one knows who owns it. Larger problems brew when various parts of an organization work at cross purposes from each other. In the end, a lack of clarity often results in runaway expenses, market share loss, high turnover, and sluggish innovation, to name a few.

Those outcomes are often caused or at least exacerbated by the incremental accumulation of ambiguity about work that happens closer to the customer. For instance, a lack of clarity about customer requirements result in products that don’t meet true customer needs. It results in poorly designed and poorly managed processes that require heroics to execute. It results in excessive rework or productivity-sapping time spent clarifying what should have been clear to begin with. In a low-clarity environment, margin and morale erode because people do work that doesn’t fit together and doesn’t move the organization toward a common performance goal.

Clarity, in contrast, feeds an organization in the same way that fertilizer feeds soil. It nourishes everything visible, as well all the quiet and invisible activities that take place out of sight to make an organization outstanding, such as decision making. When you have it, there is greater alignment, greater collaboration, higher levels of innovation, and so on. When you don’t have it, everything becomes stressed to the point that even basic decisions require more effort that they should need.

Imagine you are leading an organization filled with well-meaning and talented people in a growing industry, but you haven’t developed a culture where everyone values holding clarity front-and-center in everything they do—foundational clarity like: why you are in business, what the organization’s top priorities are, how the organization is performing both operationally and financially, and the level of performance it wants to achieve, and other important questions that drive organizational alignment and outstanding performance. Without clarity on these issues, in the near-immediate term, the relationship between the organization and its people begins to break down. Team members begin to feel unsure that their work produces customer value or contributes to organizational success. Such uncertainty leads to frustration, low morale, and eventual disengagement, creating low productivity, talent turnover, poor customer service, loss of market share, eroded margins, and so on.

To be clear, I emphasize words such as everyone and everything because clarity requires it. Leaders are in a privileged role. You may feel that you DO have clarity. But if your direct reports don’t, or if their beliefs about the priorities of the organization are different from those of the peers they work with on a daily basis, then the organization as a whole lacks clarity even if there are pockets of clarity here and there.

 

“Purpose is your why. Why does your organization exist? Why do you deliver the particular goods or services that you do?” -Karen Martin

 

Six P’s of Organizational Clarity 

How to Create a Team of Leaders by Shifting Inward

inpowered

Step Back

It may be counterintuitive, but according to Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester — who have decades of experience as entrepreneurs and advisers to hundreds of companies — the the best way to lead is to step back.  The more that you as a leader open your heart, reveal your fears and show your authentic self, the deeper the connections among your team members will be, and the more the team will achieve.

Partners at Shift180, Barry and Jeff present their unique approach to maximizing performance in their new book, The Power of Vulnerability: How to Create a Team of Leaders by Shifting Inward.  I recently spoke with them after reading the book, to talk about their views on leadership culture and vulnerability.

 

Understand the Power of Vulnerability

Why is vulnerability misunderstood?

We are taught and then hard-wired to believe that showing vulnerability is a weakness. The fear, of course, is that if we demonstrate vulnerability, others will be able to take advantage of us.  This, however, is far from the truth.  The reality is that, by sharing our vulnerability, we lay the groundwork for truly connecting with others – which is incredibly powerful.  We need to relearn that vulnerability is gateway to authenticity, connection and ultimately power.

 

When is it wrong to be vulnerable and can you be too vulnerable?

Despite the power vulnerability can bring, if you’re not in a safe environment where you can leverage its power, exhibiting vulnerability may be a mistake. Safety is a necessary predicate to being able to open up, show up and co-create trust.

 

In what ways can a leader create an environment of safety to allow team members to be vulnerable?

Leaders play a key role in creating this safe space, particularly by role modeling. As a leader, it is up to you to step in first. Show up with your real story that will disrupt the typical pattern of hiding behind the veil. By taking action, you are giving your team a real case-study of how — and more importantly, why — it works.

 

“The HEIGHT of a team’s performance compared to its potential is directly related to the DEPTH of connection among its members.”

Lead with Courage

Courage Way

Lead with Courage

 

Leaders must regularly reach inside and draw courage to accomplish difficult goals. Leadership is a daily practice to become your best self and help others along the way.

So explains Shelly Francis in her new book, The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity . Shelly has plenty of experience in her methods having served as the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since 2012. The Center has over 5,000 participants in their programs each year.

I recently asked Shelly to share her views on courage and leadership.

 

“People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day. These decisions take courage.” -Rollo May

 

5 Types of Courage

You talk about different types of courage. Why is courage at work so vitally important?

The five types of courage I describe include physical, moral, social, creative, and collective courage. The first four were named by psychologist Rollo May in his 1974 book, The Courage to Create. Even without more detail, I bet you can begin to imagine a workplace situation calling for each type of courage.

So many hours of our days are spent in the workplace—and we want those hours to matter, and we want to find meaning and purpose in our work. That trend manifests itself in each of the types of courage described in the book.

It takes physical courage to set healthy boundaries and practices for sustaining your energy rather than succumbing to burnout and overwork. In doing so, though, you risk being seen as weak or uncommitted.

It takes moral courage to speak truth to power, like we’re seeing with people sharing their stories of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace, or reporting unfair business practices. But again, you risk losing your job, your privacy, retaliation, and so on.

It takes social courage to show up with your whole self, to risk sharing your best ideas, to risk being wrong, to be vulnerable and honest about acknowledging your limitations, or to risk asking for help (like you did in a recent blog, Skip).

It takes courage to be innovative in the commonly used sense of “creative,” the courage to risk and fail and try again. But what about the courage to create a culture where people can truly flourish? Yet again, to go against the status quo and try new ways of “being and doing” at work can be risky.

Collective courage is what we need most—people working together with integrity, commitment, and a capacity to cross lines of difference. Without such courage, we risk complex, volatile issues getting even worse. We risk missing a chance to make things better.

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

5 Ingredients of the Courage Way

Tap the Power of Collaboration

collaboration

Boost Your Team‘s Potential

If you want to create amazing results, you must almost always learn the power of collaboration. In a world that seems more polarized than ever, achieving true collaboration may seem more difficult than ever.

Dr. Thea Singer Spitzer is the founder of Critical Change, LLC, and she believes that we need a new approach. A consultant, strategic advisor, and coach to top executives for nearly 30 years, she has researched and experienced these issues first hand.

Her new book, The Power of Collaboration, is a guidebook to effective teamwork. I recently spoke with her about her new book and her unique perspective on collaboration.

 

“Collaboration is no longer just a strategy: It is the key to long-term business success and competitiveness.” -Bob Mudge

 

The Power of Collaboration is the title of your new book. Tell us about that power and why tapping it is vitally important. 

The Power of Collaboration is reaching an entirely different level of achievement by working exceptionally well with others. When we do this, we alter the climate and create radically better outcomes rather than trying to convince others that ‘our way is the right way’ or working around those others if we are unable to convince them.

When we are really collaborating, we create what Michael Schrage calls, a ‘communal brain.’ We not only bring out everyone’s best, we’re able to turn those ideas into a ‘collective intelligence,’ which allows us to achieve better results.

Turning individual perspectives into collective intelligence isn’t a new concept. Most companies are much better at it than they were 10 or 15 years ago. But those improvements may be making us lackadaisical. We’re so busy patting ourselves on our backs for the distance we’ve come, we’re not realistically assessing where we are still falling short. The idea of collaborating sounds simple because of the progress we’ve made. But in a world where people with opposing views on nearly every topic imaginable must come together to achieve organizational objectives, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Employees and teams may be quite capable of handling their specific areas of focus. But unless they work together in a whole different way, products, services, and profits will suffer. Do your colleagues work together so well that your company is positioned to create the next all-electric car (or your industry’s equivalent)? If you can’t answer this question with an unequivocal “yes,” then it is vitally important that you and your organization tap this power.

 

“Access enables collaboration.” -Thea Singer Spitzer

 

Lessen the Rifts

Do you think it’s more or less difficult to get employees to work together today than in decades past? Why or why not?

That’s a great question.  Sadly, I believe it is harder today.

9781632651235The number of people in the United States who feel drawn to those with similar beliefs, and cut off from those who differ, is growing. Rifts among people holding opposing views are creeping into the workplace. This creates schisms and reduces trust between staff who may have previously worked well with each other. It often increases ‘us versus them’ thinking, alienating folks from others, and making collaboration more challenging.

People want to fix these schisms. Some think that in order to improve collaboration, the rifts need to be resolved first. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. Successful collaboration calls for honest conversations about deeply held views. Those dialogues need to happen in a way that maintains trust and allows people to mesh divergent perspectives into great solutions.

The philosophies and practices offered in this book help lessen schisms and reduce ‘us / them’ thinking in ways that build a collaborative culture.

Advice for Leaders: My Radio Interview with Maureen Metcalf

skip prichard radio interview

It was a crisp autumn evening when I drove to the radio station in Columbus for an interview. Not knowing what to expect or where the questions would take us, I decided to just enjoy the experience.

My interviewer was Maureen Metcalf. With her extensive knowledge of leadership, she made the process enjoyable with insightful questions and a great conversation. In addition to her role as CEO of Metcalf & Associates, Maureen is the host of VoiceAmerica, an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership. She also writes about leadership and organizational transformation for Forbes.com.

In this wide-ranging interview, we talk about a number of topics:

My upcoming book, The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future.

  • Why we self-sabotage
  • Why a book about mistakes
  • How to define the competition so you can win
  • The difference between success and failure
  • The power of self-talk
  • Building a powerful culture
  • Driving change throughout organizations

Click below to hear our interview: