When working in a world filled with back to back meetings, each requiring a different focus, a leader is expected to have the mental agility to leap from subject to subject without any missteps. Furthermore, they are expected to create clarity and build perspective in each of these meetings. The difficulty is that this is easier said than done.
In the beginning, having a well crafted and specific message is important but the way in which you communicate it is also important. To many leaders have a great message but it is the misalignment between their verbals and non-verbals that causes them to have problems. Furthermore, if they do not role model excellent listening skills and respect, then they will live and die by their say-do ratio. Too many leaders and managers end up, using an old Texan phase, becoming a person with “all hat and no cattle.”
Marcus Buckingham in his excellent book, The One Thing You Need to Know ... About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, Free Press, 2005, says an effective message should include the answers to the following questions:
- Who do we serve?
- What is our core strength?
- What is our core score?
- What actions can we take today?
My insight when reflecting on his work and my own experience these last 2+ decades is that organizational clarity and successful organizational decision making are inter-related. While I may be stating the obvious, the former significantly impacts the later, i.e. clarity before a decision improves the decision.
However, we need to remember the insights shared with us by Noel M. Tichy and Warren Bennis in their October 2007 Harvard Business Review article called “Making Judgment Calls: The Ultimate Act of Leadership.” Here, they point out that during the early stages of decision making, effective leaders do three things successfully. First, they sense and identify the problems before the organization. Second, they frame up and name these problems. Third, they mobilize and align people and resources to solve them. These critical skills could be significantly impacted if one is not very clear.
From my vantage point, the core parts to a leader’s message need to be the following:
- the prequel to the message which creates clarity about context and urgency.
- the core message which creates clarity about where to focus.
- the action which goes with the message that translate it into effective service delivery.
As Buckingham explains in the afore mentioned book, “Show us clearly whom we should seek to serve, show us where our core strength lies, show us which score we should focus on and which actions must be taken today, and we will reward you by working our hearts out to make our better future come true.”
As leaders, we need to remember that clear people make better decisions and work harder to make goals become reality.