Five Ways to Find Clarity

We often confuse clarity with decisiveness. Everyone expects a leader to be decisive especially in a crisis. “Tell us what to do.” When you do, you get: “No. We can’t do that.” Your people ask for a decision, and sometimes that’s what they need. More often, though, they are looking for clarity. But even for you, everything is about as clear as mud. So what kind of clarity do people need anyway? 

“Clarity is a mutual understanding of what matters, why it matters, and what role each person plays in it’s pursuit. A team has clarity when they know what they need to do and why it’s important.”

~Max Yoder, Do Better Work

I love to start things. I often start too many things. And my way of coping with uncertainty is to try out more things and see what sticks. People around me get confused about what matters and how they can contribute. In critical moments, when clarity matters more, I am learning to not simply decide, but to guide others from confusion to clarity. Here are a few things that have grabbed my attention in recent months.

  1. Anchor in your faith. Remind yourself and your team of mission. In uncertainty the outside “voices” or circumstances can get louder than our mission. Remember that person that always keeps talking so you can’t get a word in edgewise? Sometimes we are like that in our conversations with God. Pause >> even just 2 minutes. Guide yourself and your team in a “brain break” to engage both heart and soul to hear spiritual wisdom for the situation at hand.
  1. Engage others in the conversation (team, advisors, board members, mentors). Too often leaders take on the burden in crisis that is not theirs to carry alone. Instead, be the guide that leads people to clarity. Craft your questions. Make your ask for input clear. This invites perspective and opens us up to creative thinking. Too many perspectives, however, can get confusing, so go back to #1 when things get out of focus or clarity is lost.
  1. Learn from others. We have not led through the kinds of situations, decisions and responses that are needed right now. In these scenarios we can still draw from past experiences, but that alone will not create clarity in such a dynamic environment. Learn from other organizations or a mentor. What have they tried? What are they doing? What is working? Check out first-hand research and be informed so you can guide others toward clarity.
  1. Write it down. If you are a “ready, fire, aim” person, like me, then taking the time to write down your plans (even as a bullet list) can create clarity about what is on your mind and help you see gaps that you might otherwise miss. Writing it down will focus conversations on what matters, keep your message on-point, and make your requests clear. Preparation for meetings, conversations and proposals isn’t a waste of time >> don’t wing it; prepare for it! 
  1. Experiment and try again. Some clarity only comes in the trying. You may not have all the information to make the right decision, even when people expect you to have the answers. Give yourself permission and encourage others to get clear on just the next step. Then, take that step with confidence. Take responsibility for what didn’t work, celebrate what did work, learn from it and try again.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

We know our teams need clarity to thrive in uncertainty. Guess what? So do you. As a leader it’s easy to be captivated by the urgent. But the pursuit of clarity will save time and, over the long haul, energy.

Your Journey to Clarity

You may not have been in this kind of situation before, but you have faced uncertainty in the past and found clarity. Let’s help each other move from confusion to clarity! Comment below on what you are learning about clarity in these uncertain times. Use these questions as a prompt.

  • How has just stepping out with the next step created clarity for you and your team?
  • It’s tempting in uncertainty, to drive forward with quick decisions. How have you paused to engage others in creating clarity in the situation?
  • How has your faith played a role in achieving clarity in tough situations?

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center of Coaching Excellence.

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