Lessons in leadership keep me humble, and remind me what we need to keep learning. Join the conversation on LinkedIn to share how you provide clarity in your org.

Clarity is Job #1 for leaders. The greatest gift you can give the people you work with–and your greatest responsibility–is clarity. Clarity about purpose, priorities, direction.

Clarity is also really hard. I recently re-learned that lesson the hard way.

It’s hard to generate clear alignment amongst leaders. It’s hard to communicate clearly. It’s hard to know whether your message has been received as intended. 

And, it’s worth all the effort, to take care of the humans.

Recently, we Elevate founders were (unintentionally) unclear with some of our most trusted partners–those we call “Elevators”and on whom we lean for the most challenging transformations. We felt the sting of realizing we were likely causing angst, and confusion. For me, that’s a terrible feeling. I’d much rather create clarity and transparency, where everyone knows what’s happening, and what we intend.

Like so many 2020 stories, this one starts with covid. All our plans flew out the window as our clients delayed business agility transformation efforts to deal with the massive change. Our wonderful clients continued to deliver, using business agility principles to deal with business continuity efforts.  At Elevate, we experienced this time as a bit of a lull, and we three co-founders spent some time on our own learning and strategy.

Long story short, we got inspired to pursue some of our talents and passions differently, and decided to change the direction of our organization. Our closest partners–who are in the closest circle of our ecosystem, but are not employees–would be impacted by our re-focus.

And yet. We didn’t tell them. I mean, we thought we told them. As individuals, each founder had conversations that we thought conveyed the new direction. We described our thinking during a recorded all-hands and shared the recording afterwards, asking our amazing humans to listen and reflect. We had a couple more one-on-ones in which we thought we described our new thinking.

Yet, when we really tried to empathize, when we tried to picture what folks might hear, from the busy-ness of their daily, covid-stressed lives, it sounded like:

  • A way to engage might exist at some point
  • The founders are excited about something
  • There might be a slightly different strategy than before

Alignment is also hard

From this place of empathy, we three came together to craft a clearer message. And here was a second learning: Alignment is hard. We’d want to start just writing, and one or the other of us would ask, “What problem are we trying to solve?” Or, “Why are we doing this?” It took several conversations to get on the same page.

The repeated conversations–covering the same ground from several angles–were somewhat frustrating, but 100% worth it. We feel aligned. We wrote a clearer communication, that still only introduced the deeper conversation we then had Zoom-face-to-Zoom-face. We asked for and committed to the follow-on conversations. 

We feel clear, and we now know how to move forward, together. We now all see how we can support one another and partner effectively. We feel connected to all the humans.

How are you practicing clarity in your organization? We’d love to learn from your experiences.