Byron's Babbles

What is Clarity?

The following is an excerpt from Clarity First by Karen Martin

What Is Clarity?

By Karen Martin

The simplest definition of clarity is the quality of being easily and accurately understood. Clarity in a business context goes deeper than that, however, since it exists in multiple forms: as an organizational value, a state of being, and an outcome.

When clarity exists as a value, individuals and the organizations they work for operate in a way that places a premium on clarity and rewards the people who seek it. In that environment leaders and team members pursue clarity in their daily activities and cultivate an expectation of clarity throughout the organization. An example of clarity as a value can be seen in Alan Mulally, the former CEO of Ford, who applauded members of his team when they called attention to drops in performance or other areas of the business that needed attention instead of staying silent.

Alternatively, organizations can operate in a way that dismisses clarity and penalizes those people who seek it. At Wells Fargo, for example, employees were fired when they tried to report wrongdoing when they saw their peers opening false accounts in order to meet new account targets. Opening unauthorized accounts was reportedly condoned by bank leadership, and employees who refused to comply or actively worked to call the practice to light were penalized.

Wells Fargo is an extreme example of how clarity might be discouraged or dismissed. More commonly, organizations are benignly ambiguous, operating with a lack of clarity because it seems to be easier and safer in the short term. Remember, ambiguity is the default stage—it is what happens automatically.

Clarity, in contrast, requires work for a person to achieve it as a state of being, and it requires focused effort for a person to give clarity to others in the form of clear communication. Clarity can also be something you receive from others when they communicate clearly with you. In this sense, clarity exists inside a person’s mind, as well as in the space between that person and another with whom he or she wants to share information.

What does clarity as a state of being look like? Clarity exhibits many qualities, the most important of which are coherence, precision, and elegance. Clarity as coherence comes through information that is both purposeful and logical. Precise information is succinct. Elegant information is crisp and easy for the intended recipient of the information to grasp.

Despite the multiple forms and multiple qualities that clarity possesses, there are also things clarity is not. Clarity is a close cousin to truth, for example, but they are not one and the same. A person or an organization can issue untruthful statements that are received as true because they have the coherence, precision, and elegance of clear communication. There is even a term for this— agnotology—coined by Stanford Professor Robert Proctor as the study of the willful act to spread ignorance or doubt.

Clarity is also a close cousin to transparency, but they are not identical either. One can be clear with the information he chooses to share while withholding some of the details. Likewise, one can believe she’s being transparent without being clear. Transparency is a noble goal in many situations, but it’s not a “one size fits all” virtue. There are good reasons why the Healthcare Insurance Portability Protection Act (HIPPA) precludes healthcare providers from sharing private patient information outside the patient’s direct care team, for example, but those reasons don’t apply to doctors writing clear orders or providing clear direction to their patient’s treatment team. Generally, though, transparency serves efforts to operate with greater clarity.

Finally, clarity is different from certainty. Certainty is not always possible, but achieving clarity nearly always is. For example, companies can’t always predict when a competing product will rob them of market share, when a natural disaster will cut off access to a key supplier, or when political priorities will shift so that what they thought was tomorrow’s concern becomes today’s crisis. But organizations can improve their predictive powers and the speed with which they respond by gathering information, interpreting it, and communicating findings clearly. In this way, both clarity and uncertainty can coexist in the same environment. Similarly, certainty is a dangerous mindset in the early stages of problem solving, but it’s essential to operate from a clear problem definition.

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Karen Martin, president of the global consulting firm TKMG, Inc., is a leading authority on business performance and Lean management. Her latest book, Clarity First, is her most provocative to date and diagnoses the ubiquitous business management and leadership problem―the lack of clarity―and outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational performance.

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The Frustrating Truth Of Turf

Great Pumpkin 🎃 Carving By Steve Treffiletti

I learned a new term this week: “Lawnmower Parents”. One of our activities during our North Carolina 3D Leadership was to carve pumpkins using the prompt of: “Truths we Are Frustrated With”. This turned into a great and meaningful activity in all our states with some really deep conversations. I love to watch the carvings develop and am always trying to guess what is being represented. I had to laugh when I saw Coach Steve Treffiletti from Langtree Charter Academy carving a lawnmower. If I would have carved a pumpkin using our prompt, I would have carved a lawnmower too. I have made the picture of his pumpkin the featured picture of this post. While we both would have carved pictures of mowers, our stories were different. I am going to write about both in this post.

Lawnmower Parents

Coach Treffiletti’s truth he was frustrated with, was that of a new group of parents categorized as “lawnmower parents”. I guess I have been under a rock because I had not heard this term yet. For those that are like me and aren’t familiar with theses parents, they are pushing aside “helicopter parents” to intervene or, mow down, any person or obstacle that stands in the way of any inconvenience, problem or discomfort their child might encounter. Coach Treffiletti’s point was that our students won’t be prepared for life or to be great citizens if every hurdle is removed for them.

Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle, or failure. Make no mistake, this does not mean parents should not keep their children safe, help, and encourage them. But, lawnmower parents are not teaching kids how to deal with discomfort. Quite the contrary, they are preventing kids from learning to problem-solve.

I’ve never met a parent who sets out to be a bad parent or whose heart wasn’t in the right place. We all want what was is best for our kids. But we have to watch being too focused on reducing our child’s discomfort in the short-term, rather than focusing on our child’s needs in the long-term Sometimes we must just back off and let our children gain experience dealing with adversity.

Turf

My truth I am frustrated with is that of “turf”. Let me explain. As an education policy-maker it is so frustrating when it becomes challenging, and many times nearly impossible, to innovate and make improvements because the different turf is being protected by the individuals, groups, organizations, or governmental agencies involved. All have a stake, but everyone is afraid of losing turf. When we don’t mow down the turf, we end up with the status quo. I actually discuss this so much in meetings that a person, who I respect a great deal, gave me a toy lawnmower in honor of my constant desire to “mow down the turf.”

Beth Macy discussed the issue of “turf” in her great book, Dopesick. Macy argued that it is hard to get agencies to work together to solve an issue because of turf. She used the example of most drug offenders being sent to federal prison instead of being dealt with at the local or state level because it would leave money at the local and state level. The problem is we begin to view problems to rigidly based on where our funding comes from. We need to figure out ways to eliminate turf’s devastating effect on innovation and changing the status quo.

What’s your truth that frustrates you?

Cultivating Your Team For Maximum Growth & Blooms

Consideration of the flower bed and the flower farmer is fertile ground that allows a leader to reflect upon her or his own performance. It gives insight into the needs of the flower bed (the people) and the outlook and perspectives needed by the person involved in floriculture (the leader). As leaders we need to develop ourselves as a leader and as a servant so that, together with our people, we can flourish and achieve our full potential in the purpose of our organization.

I was reminded of this flower bed analogy this week when working with our South Carolina 3D Leadership cohort. I already blogged about our project of carving pumpkins to tell the story of “Truths We Are Frustrated With.” Click here to read my original post about this project from our Indiana cohort entitled, “The Messiness Of The Truths We Are Frustrated With.”

Ms. Russell’s Pumpkin 🎃 Carving

Ms. Linda Russell, Kindergarten teacher at Mevers School Of Excellence in Goose Creek, South Carolina, carved her pumpkin in the shape of an irregular flower with her as the stem. Her point was that everyone, just like the petals of a flower, develop at different rates, different sizes, in different ways, and has different needs. As Ms. Russell works as Kindergarten lead, this is a truth she has to remember. She has to work hard to not be frustrated by this, but embrace it. As I always say, we work really hard at differentiating for our students, but then don’t do a good job of differentiating for the different professional growth needs of our team members.We need to design professional growth opportunities that embrace the fact that we all develop like flowers. Too often, we fail to be good gardeners (leaders) in providing the choice, agency, and nurturing our team members deserve. How about about you? Are you doing everything you can to enhance the growth of your blooming team members?

Creating a Strategy for a Compelling Story

The following is an excerpt from What Are Your Blind Spots?

Creating a Strategy for a Compelling Story

By Jim Haudan and Rich Berens

A few key concepts must be established when creating and delivering an effective story. Each and every time you create an effective story, you must:

• Identify your primary audience.

• Focus on the overall message.

• Outline the core drama.

• Make it personal.

• Practice delivering it.

Let’s explore how to execute each one together.

Identify Your Primary Audience

Before you start crafting your story, you should have clarity on who your primary audience is. What is this group’s mindset and knowledge base on the content? Do you want the people in the group to be excited, curious, fearful, apprehensive, or charged up? How much do they know about your story already? Do they have any preconceived notions? If you don’t have full awareness about your audience, you could craft a compelling story that misses the mark with those you are trying to reach.

Focus on the Overall Message

Just about every great story has an overarching message, moral, or key takeaway. Think of any of your favorite movies. There are many subplots, but they tend to be connected to one larger dominating theme. In Star Wars, the Rebels beat the Empire and destroyed that darn Death Star the enemy kept rebuilding. In E.T., Elliott and helpers made sure to get the poor fellow back home. Think of the story you want to tell your employees.

If being risk averse is a core concern within your organization, you might focus on how taking risks and embracing failure is essential for long-term success as the major guiding thought. If the key concern is speed and adapting to a rapidly changing competitive environment, the ability to collaborate, transcend silos, and work differently might be your guiding thought.

Outline the Core Drama

Any great story has a core drama that shapes its narrative. Whether it’s something that disrupts, creates a new challenge, or forces the key characters to think and act differently, drama is present. Be clear on that drama and make it a critical component of your narrative. This could be a nontraditional competitive threat, the inability to work together within the organization, or a dramatic shift in customer expectations. No matter the situation, you will want to build out that core drama element and channel most energy toward overcoming that issue.

Make It Personal

Every story gains credibility and authenticity when it feels real and personal. So if you think that changes in customer expectations are a real threat to how you can compete, share personal experiences that friends, family, or even you personally experienced when purchasing your product or service. This might create unexpected “aha” moments. We were working with the CEO of a leading building products company that had great products but was struggling with the customer experience it provided. At a leadership meeting, the CEO shared a detailed account of how he remodeled his kitchen and the very frustrating experience he had buying his cabinets and said that he was inclined never to do it again. It made the challenge more vivid and personal, and it moved the topic from an intellectual customer experience problem to a meaningful account of what it is like to interact with the company’s products and channels in real life.

Practice Delivering

It Interestingly, when we ask leaders how often they practice giving a keynote speech or a key presentation to their board, they respond by saying, “Always.” When we then ask how often they practice telling their strategy story to their people, their answer is, “Rarely.” Like most things in life, it takes practice to be great. In boxing, the conventional wisdom is that you have to practice for 30,000 minutes to be good for 3. Comedians run through an incredible amount of reps before they master the timing of their jokes. As leaders, we often share content in real time and don’t practice our delivery. The ability to practice how you tell your story, where to emphasize certain points, where to pause for reflection, and how to really engage with your audience simply takes time and practice.

Putting These Steps into Action

By combining these story creation essentials (primary audience, overarching message, core drama, making it personal, and practice), you will have a storyline that complements your vision headline.

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About Jim Haudan

Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc. Root Inc., the organizational change expert on helping companies create leadership alignment, execute strategies and change successful, build employee engagement, and transform businesses.  He is a sought-after business presenter who has spoken at TEDx BGSU, Tampa TEDx, and The Conference Board. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc. The book equips readers with the tools needed for a personal leadership reset. You’ll discover how to increase engagement, productivity, and growth in your own organization.

About Rich Berens

Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc, and has helped align leaders at Global 2000 organizations to drive strategic and cultural change at scale. He is a noted speaker on the issues of, transformation, and how to create lasting change  and has authored articles for numerous publications and blogs. Under Rich’s leadership, Root has been listed among the Great Place to Work® Institute’s top 25 places to work, been named to the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list, and experienced 10 years of consecutive growth. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc.

I’ve Been BitMoji’d, Literally!

IMG_3776So, I was asked to provide a BitMoji for my work to use on a key card. Sounded fun, but honestly, I had no idea what a BitMoji was. I knew what an emoji was, and have even blogged about them. In fact I just checked and I have blogged about emojis seven times. Click here to find my blogs on emojis. You are probably asking yourself, how did he figure out what a BitMoji was? Well, I did what any baby boomer would do, asked a much younger and tech savvy person. I happened to be working in a school at the time asked, so I asked a teacher. She was kind enough to help me find the app, download it, and show we how it worked. I love this reverse-mentoring stuff. What fun!

Well, do you BitMoji? If not, then you are missing out! I found it to be quite fun and even an exercise in reflection. I like the fact that you take a selfie and then your selfie is right there as you are creating the avatar. I found this to be a metaphor for how we reflect on how we are doing as leaders and in our jobs. Sometimes we need that selfie to help us reflect. Here’s my selfie and BitMoji (how did I do?):

What is funny is that at our 3D Leadership gathering this past weekend, the group was kidding me about using the word “literally” a lot. They created a “literally” hashtag: #literally. How cool was it that there literally is a “lit·er·al·ly” BitMoji. This caused me to reflect about the words and language I use,  because we all know language matters.

Building a positive culture in our organizations takes commitment, consistency, and teamwork…and adding a little Bitmoji may just add that extra fun you are looking for. Don’t forget, it can also bring some reflection time into your own personal development and growth. Next time you are looking to represent your organization or school’s culture, just remember, there’s a Bitmoji for that! How will you use Bitmojis to add to your organization’s positive culture?

The Messiness Of The Truths We Are Frustrated With

Reality is, if you are willing to be present in the messiness and take appropriate action based on the conditions in which you actually find yourself, you will be uncomfortable quite often and also probably experience feeling vulnerable. We dove into this messiness at our Indiana 3D Leadership gathering this past weekend. The through line of our gathering was, “What’s My Story?” The first activity was to carve a pumpkin. You heard me right, carve a pumpkin. But not just the usual face, but a jack o lantern that answered the phrase: “Truths We Are Frustrated With.”

I’ve gotta tell you, I was blown away. They were all awesome. The stories were all awesome. The group was so into this project that they found a dark room, lit up their pumpkins, and formed a semi circle to tell their stories. I videoed a few of them and let me tell you they were all inspiring. I am sure I will have more blogs following this one on these stories.

One of the stories that jumped out at me was on the messiness of leadership and the truths that frustrate us. Check it out by clicking here:

I learned a lot from this observation and visual. This pumpkin carving and story taught us that, as a leader, it’s up to us to put ourselves second, and operate in a way that allows others to feel at ease, to feel understood, and to work in the way that’s best for them–even if it’s not the way we might operate ourselves. Sometimes we need to let go of the meaning we are putting on the moment and just be there.

Your team wants to know what you stand for and believe in, and that your values align with theirs. Great leaders step up to challenges, and come face-to-face with their commitments.

Why You Should Read “What Are Your Blinds Spots?”

What Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions That Hold Leaders BackWhat Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions That Hold Leaders Back by Jim Haudan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book dives deeply into five areas that are written and talked about often in the realm of leadership, but does it in a way that is different from all the rest. The areas of purpose, story, engagement, trust, and truth are all leadership dispositions that most would think are very straightforward. Because they are dispositions, however, we become blind to our organizations and our own approach to these, we miss opportunities for improvement or even gross inadequacies. This book is not just all talk; practical applications are given along with activities to identify and inform our blind spots. We all have a leadership style and mantra, and this book gives the reader a chance to take an introspective look at whether that mantra is what we want those on our team to be sharing about us. As a leader, student of leadership development, and leadership development professional, I found the lessons in this book engaging, able to be used immediately, and transferable. I grew professionally from reading this book.

View all my reviews

Leader Traits From The Palmetto State

I was reading some research on leadership development this week and one of pieces that jumped out at me was the statement, “what leaders really want is a personalized experience and the opportunity to learn from…their fellow-leaders.” I was reminded of this last night during the September 3D Leadership gathering of our South Carolina members. One of the things discussed during our plus/delta time at the end was the fact they were able to discuss freely and transparently which made it possible for them to get to know each other and learn from each other. In fact one participant said, “I’m so glad you brought up the issue of communication and that we discussed that. Now we can work on making it better.” Effective leadership development involves time for reflection and learning from those around us.

We did one such learning activity last night where the South Carolina group developed their own top list of good and bad leadership traits. It was a great discussion with being supportive coming out as their number one trait every good leader should have. Here are the rest of their results:

Here’s what we know: Success in today’s world depends on how leaders perform as a team. The unpredictable and rapidly changing landscape, whether it is in government, education, or business, means you need to have people with a variety of skillsets and mindsets who can quickly step in to show leadership in response to a variety of challenges. This is why organizations need to look at all employees as leaders, with “leadership potential,” and start developing leadership potential earlier in careers. That is why we do 3D Leadership – to help our leaders Discover, Develop, and Distribute leadership wherever and whenever it is needed.

Why Everyone Should Read Dopesick

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted AmericaDopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As soon as I finished this book I tweeted, “Anyone who is a public policy maker, educator, or citizen (in other words everyone) needs to read Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors… by Beth Macy. This book tells the history of the #opioidcrisis back to the Civil War until today like none other!” I learned so much history that I did not know. By the time the Civil War ended, addiction had already touched middle-class housewives, immigrants, veterans and even physicians hoping to soothe their own aches and pains. This is when the opioid epidemic began. Between the 1870s and 1880s, America’s per capita consumption of opiates had tripled. On March 1, 1915 a law passed by Congress and signed by one of my favorite Presidents, Woodrow Wilson, would become the first law to criminalize drug use, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act. I also learned that opioids such as morphine and codeine are naturally derived from opium poppy plants more commonly grown in Asia, Central America and South America. Heroin is an illegal drug synthesized from morphine.
Hydrocodone and oxycodone are semi-synthetic opioids, manufactured in labs with natural and synthetic ingredients.

I really like fact that Macy also spent a great deal of time discussing and educating her readers on the public policy component of the opioid crisis. Macy argues that a big obstacle to solving the crisis is that many local, state, and federal agencies and governments are more concerned about protecting turf and budgets than solving the problem and helping people. This book pushed and stretched me to understand this very complex issue.

View all my reviews

North Carolina Leader Traits

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North Carolina 3D Leadership Cohort #1

Last night at our North Carolina cohort of 3D Leadership developed their top five list of good leadership traits and bad leadership traits. To do this we used one of my go to facilitation props (no pun intended), the toy prop gliders. Here is what participants did:

The groups then got back together and listed their top five list. Then the whole cohort voted on the top five good leadership traits and top five bad leadership traits. Here are the results:

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 3.04.17 PM

It is always interesting to me that as I do this in many different states and with individuals of different experiences, how different the lists can be. Successful organizations need leaders, someone (or as I believe everyone) who can inspire employees and lead them and the organization toward success. Leaders encourage others to work to their full potential, inspire creativity and aid motivation. During turbulent times, the need for good leaders intensifies. As I always say, “Leading is easy when things are going great, but really hard when it is chaos and earthquakes.” Someone who presents a clear vision for recovery, leads by example and instills confidence in those around them. A good leader has many traits, if you can recognize these within yourself and capitalize on them, then you can become a successful leader in your work environment and on your team.

By consciously making an effort to exhibit the traits highlighted by my North Carolina friends, people will be more likely to follow us. If we exhibit these traits on a regular basis, we will be able to grow our influence to its full potential as a leader. What’s on your top five list of good and bad leadership traits?