How to Eliminate Confusion and Lead with Clarity

AdVance Leadership » How to Eliminate Confusion and Lead with Clarity

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #022. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll be equipped to break through blurriness and lead with clarity.

1 Insight

In too many organizations, confusion is King. Use the 7 Levels of Clarity to move from confusion to clarity.

In 2021, we made one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We both had LASIK eye surgery. Dorothy had mild vision issues, but Garland had been legally blind since he was a child. With 20/200 vision, he required glasses or contacts to do anything: drive, read, watch TV, see people’s faces, stumble out of bed in the morning. The results of LASIK were the same for both of us. We moved from a blurry existence to a crystal-clear world we could engage with unassisted confidence.

Too many organizations exist in pre-LASIK-like conditions. Employees are working hard every day but don’t actually know what the organization is trying to accomplish. A lack of clarity is one of the 7 issues that cause 95% of leadership challenges. When leaders fail to establish a culture of clarity, they handicap their teams. Teams experience:

  1. Slowed productivity
  2. Shaken confidence
  3. Hesitant decisions
  4. Broken trust
  5. Feelings of frustration

Knock confusion off its throne and allow clarity to reign supreme. In order to create clarity, you must understand that clarity exists at 7 levels. Start with the top level and work your way down.

Level 1: Purpose

Purpose answers the question: Why does the organization exist? To understand your organization, you need at least three pieces of information:

  1. Historical Context

It is essential that everyone in an organization connect to its origin story:

  • What breathed your organization into existence?
  • What was the original problem that needed to be solved?
  • Who were some of the early players in shaping the first framework?
  • What were some of their original dreams and intentions?
  • What were the big decisions that formed who your organization is today?

2. Purpose Statement

Your company may rely on different verbiage like vision or mission. This guiding statement should be an unending, never-fully-achievable purpose that guides everything you do.

 3.Core Values

Core values are the expectations of how we want people to act. Define them in a way that guides people in how they are intended to behave.

Level 2: Profits

Profits answers three essential questions:

  1. How do we make money?
  2. How do we spend money?
  3. How do we lose money?

When employees don’t understand how you make, spend, and lose money, they can’t make good decisions in the best interest of the business and its clients. Ultimately, your profits should help you fulfill your purpose. Without profits, your company won’t stay in business long enough to fulfill your purpose.

Profits fuel your purpose.

Level 3: Priorities 

This level tends to be the biggest area in which leaders can easily make improvements to their teams. Few leaders do the hard work of identifying, discussing, and taking actions based on priorities.

Level 3 answers the question, “What is most important for us to accomplish?” This level requires that leaders look several years down the road. When leaders fail to communicate where they are going and how they will get there, they force employees to decide what’s most important.

Cal Newport’s Principle of Least Resistance shows what happens when leaders fail to clarify priorities: “In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, people tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment.” (Deep Work, 58).

Priorities deliver the profits to fuel your purpose.

Level 4: Plans

Once you establish priorities, make plans and put them into action. At this level, it’s easy to add pressure by thinking, all of these goals should be finished by tomorrow. This is a surefire way of setting your team up for failure.

Plans are the bite-sized pieces carved out of priorities.

Piece 1:  Based on your priorities, what must be done in the next 1-2 years?

Piece 2:  What are the 2-3 most important goals to achieve in the next 90 days?

Piece 3:  For those 2-3 goals, answer 3 questions:

  • What is the next action?
  • When does that action need to be done?
  • Who needs to do that action?

Piece 4:  Are there any other goals that require some work in the next 90 days?

By the time you’ve finished the fourth piece, everyone on your team should have a clear understanding of what your highest priorities are for the next 90 days. Update one another during team meetings.

Plans accomplish the priorities that deliver the profits to fuel your purpose.

Level 5: People

People are incredibly important, but their jobs exist to fulfill the larger goals of the organization.

To help people complete the goals of the organization, take three actions:

  1. Identify what every person on your team is responsible for.
  2. Determine what roles need to be added, subtracted or redirected to finish plans and priorities.
  3. Update the organizational structure to make it easier to realize the priorities.

People execute the plans to accomplish the priorities that deliver the profits to fuel your purpose.

Level 6: Processes

Processes answers the question, “What repeatable work must we do to stay in business?” Most businesses have dozens, if not hundreds, of repeatable processes that can be documented and trained to others. Creating processes is critical to success because they:

  • Provide consistent results.
  • Save time, money, and energy.
  • Protect your team from brain drain. Brain drain is using valuable mental energy to think about how to complete mindless tasks. Brains should be freed to create and innovate.

Processes free up your people to execute the plans to accomplish the priorities that deliver the profits to fuel your purpose.

Level 7: Problems

Most leaders tackle TONS of problems daily. They believe each problem must be dealt with immediately. Clarity zaps a sense of urgency and helps determine which problems should be addressed and when.

Filter each problem through the 7 Levels of Clarity:

  1. Is this a problem that is preventing us from accomplishing our priorities? If yes, tackle it! If not, ask the next question.
  2. Is this problem getting in the way of us completing our plans? If yes, tackle it! If not, ask the next question.
  3. Is this problem a people problem or one that is preventing our people from achieving the plans or priorities? If yes, tackle it! If not, ask the next question.
  4. Is this a process problem, one that requires updating our processes to accomplish them quickly and consistently  ? If yes, tackle it! If not, ask the next question.
  5. Is this a problem that we need to deal with now? Or can we live with it for now? What would be the effects of ignoring this problem?

Problems are the obstacles that slow down your processes and trap your people so they can’t execute plans and accomplish priorities, reducing the profits and stalling your purpose.

Implementing the 7 Level of Clarity is like performing LASIK eye surgery on your organization. Conquer the confusion of blurriness and free your team to move forward with the confidence of clarity.

1 Action

Keep in mind the 7 Levels of Clarity should be worked through in order. Start with Purpose.


Want to help your company unleash its leaders?

  1. Get your team to subscribe to the Friday411 newsletter.
  2. Get your copy of Gettin' (un)Busy, named by Forbes as “one of the books everyone on your team should read.”
  3. Email Garland to train your company’s leaders. We will equip them with 7 traits that solve 95% of their leadership challenges.
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