How to Give Clarity to Your Team
One of the most significant challenges leaders face is often found in their blindspot. They don’t even realize they have a problem. That challenge is clarity. Often, leaders have a clear picture of what needs to happen sorted in their heads. The problem is that just because it’s clear in their head, doesn’t mean it is straightforward for their staff. It’s only human to assume that something clear for us is just as clear for others.
Leaders often overestimate how well staff have digested messages. The team will often need repeated communication or further elucidation to gain clarity. Unfortunately, this problem often goes unrecognized until it affects output - staff might miss a deadline, skip a task, or need to redo something due to a lack of clarity on what was required or precisely their role in the project. Staff will often suffer silent confusion rather than risk looking stupid for not understanding something. The likelihood is that where one team member is unclear, others probably are too.
So how do you make sure you and your team are on the same page? This article will take you through some best practices to develop clarity for your team.
Developing Clarity for Your Team
Ideally, you don’t want staff members coming to you seeking clarification or, worse, battling on in confusion; playing defense will not prevent mistakes. It is better to support your team in the offensive - providing greater clarity, so your team members don’t have to ask for it.
Systematic clarity obviates the need for constantly assessing what needs to be done every day. Ideally, you should have systems and processes in place to maintain clarity. There are three main areas leaders should focus on. Setting up methods and procedures around these issues will benefit the whole workplace. These areas are clarity of roles, clarity on purpose, and clarity on plans.
Developing Clarity on Roles
Developing role clarity for your staff often starts with developing a job description. Whether you are drafting a new position or reorganizing the positions in your team, you need to think through these reflection questions for each role.
- What’s our goal? And why are we trying to achieve it?
- How do we achieve it?
- What’s their role in it?
- What part of the plan are they responsible for?
- What decisions are they able to make?
Reflecting on these questions should enable you to create job descriptions firmly grounded in purpose and strategy.
When employing new staff, refer to the job description and use your answers to these questions to explain how their job description relates to the big picture. At this point, the last couple of questions prompts essential discussions on the practicalities of who they report to, what projects they are responsible for, what is expected, KPIs, etc.
It’s good to schedule check-in meetings to discuss job descriptions for staff who have been employed for some time, You can check in on how things have changed since they started their role. Use the opportunity to clarify the specificities of their responsibilities. Clearly explain what decisions they are accountable to make and which decisions are beyond their level of authority. Let them know what you hold them responsible for and how their role relates to the overall plan and purpose of the organization.
When assigning tasks to your team, you should naturally return to your organizational plan to revisit where your team members fit. Review their areas of responsibility and determine whose names are on what tasks. Remember to assign ultimate accountability to a specific person - that is, where there are shared tasks or team members collaborating on various aspects of a project - determine whose name is ultimately accountable for what. Clarity of responsibility is a critical step in resolving or avoiding conflict. Staff can quickly become very stressed and insecure about a given workload, performance, or teamwork if there is confusion over responsibility. Team members often perform best when taking ownership of a task and staying focused on achieving the best outcome.
Developing Clarity of Purpose
“Purpose” is quite the organizational buzzword, and with good reason. It should flow through every level of the organization and to every individual contributor on the team. Any asset a company creates should ideally flow from a strong sense of purpose.
When explaining the purpose to your employees, make it clear that it’s not about making money and achieving numbers, but it’s about why you do what you do as an organization. It’s the ‘why bother?’ behind everything and how you’re making an impact in the world.
Break purpose down to the strategy you’re executing.
- The strategy of 3 bullet points
It’s likely as a leader, you’ve spent countless hours and created plenty of documents developing a strategy for your team. To keep your team on track, keep all the deliberations, examinations, and intricacies of your strategy in your head and summarize your strategy as briefly and clearly as possible in three simple bullet points.
- One year goals
From here, refer to your goals for the year. Ground the goal for your team in the overall goals for the organization for the year.
- Quarterly goals
Revisit what you’ve achieved so far this year and which objectives are outstanding.
It’s a good idea to systematically schedule strategy meetings for the whole team to get everyone on the same page. Where the strategy is new, multiple meetings may be necessary and could be incorporated into specific planning sessions. Otherwise, it might be that a discussion of purpose and strategy is a team day or event at the start of the year.
Dedicating an annual strategy day is a valuable tool in developing clarity for the staff It often generates greater motivation and commitment when they understand the larger goals and how you plan to lead them there. Teams are much more invested in their work when they can see how they make a difference. A meeting is also a safe forum for staff to pose their questions or for you to excavate how well they understand overall goals.
Developing Clear Plans
We already touched on the dangers of staff being unsure of their specific responsibilities and which tasks have been assigned to them. When team members are unsure who is responsible for what, it not only makes it difficult for them to perform optimally but generally can make them grumpy and snappy! Insecurity puts people on their defensive, and it’s more likely they will create conflict or have difficulty collaborating with others.
Try this Exercise
On the whiteboard or using a tool like Asana, list all the tasks related to team projects and assign a name to each task. This exercise clarifies who is ultimately responsible at the end of the day, even when there are shared tasks.
Use regularly scheduled meetings as the vehicle in which clarity develops. When known weekly meetings are scheduled, you can address clarity proactively, attempting to combat confusion before it creates any serious damage. Your team will be more effective, productive, and secure, which will, in turn, boost a healthy work culture.
As a leader, build in the practice of reflection to review the plans and team structure you hold in your head and ask yourself if you think it’s just as clear for your team members.
Acknowledging that misunderstandings are expected, a good motto is; you can’t overcommunicate with your team. When communicating one-on-one with staff, get into the habit of asking them to repeat what they heard to you. Developing clarity is an ongoing practice that saves you time by avoiding all the headaches that arise from confusion in the long term.
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