Imagine a scenario where you take over as the new leader of a team and you work to define the essential core of your team though a well-crafted vision and mission statement. You put considerable effort into formulating these ideas, being highly selective about the message and language. After creating, publishing, and displaying this new core of your team, a senior leader from your larger organization comes to visit your team. During the visit, they see your posted vision and mission and ask one of your direct reports – an upper-level manager on your team who helped create those statements – about it…and the person cannot remember the statements. They can’t recite or describe the statements themselves, or even articulate some of the key words or themes from them. Yikes! I’m sure both you and the senior leader are now questioning what impact these statements are even having on your team.

Unfortunately, we experienced this exact scenario last week as an observing third party. The team’s leader certainly understood he had a leadership challenge.

This is a Systemic Problem

In his book, The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey (and also retold in the book, Made to Stick, by Chip & Dan Heath) shared the results from his poll of 23,000 employees from various companies and industries. The results found that:

  • Only 37% of employees stated they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why.
  • Only 1 in 5 was enthusiastic about their team’s and organization’s goals.
  • Only 1 in 5 asserted they had a clear “line of sight” that connected their individual tasks and the team’s or organization’s goals.
  • Only 15% felt that their organization fully enables them to execute key goals.
  • Only 20% fully trusted the organization they work for.

Covey then framed these statistics in an impactful way by applying them to an 11-person soccer team. He went on to claim that those statistics meant:

  • Only 4 of the 11 players knew which goal was theirs.
  • Only 2 of the 11 actually cared which goal was theirs.
  • Only 2 knew what position they played and what exactly they were supposed to do.
  • And all but 2 of the 11 would be in some way, competing against their own team members rather than the opponent.

When presented with this added perspective, we can see that we all face a leadership challenge – we have an organizational clarity challenge.

Leaders Provide Purpose & Direction

This topic matters and is something we must address because leaders provide organizational clarity to our people and our team; it is a fundamental skill for leadership. We help our people clearly understand who we are, what we do (and don’t do), and why & how we do it. Leaders must create, clarify, and communicate purpose and direction for the team.

We believe in the research that argues there are six fundamental skills every leader should practice. The first two skills are (1) shaping a vision that is exciting and challenging for our team and (2) translating that vision into a clear strategy about what actions to take, and what not to do.

To reinforce the bottom line – we must create organizational clarity.

The Three C’s of Organizational Clarity

This series aims to equip and inspire leaders to enact this fundamental leadership skill to provide clarity to our people and teams. We do this through the series by discussing the “three C’s” of organizational clarity:

  • Create Our Essential Organizational Core: We must clearly define our team’s essential core drivers & beliefs so that every person on our team can understand, connect to, and be inspired by it. This is what drives what we do and don’t do every day.
  • Clarify & Simplify That Core: Our drafted core may sound intelligent and resonate to the small group of senior leaders that likely crafted it, but does it actually mean something to the whole team – especially our most junior members? We must ensure our core is clear, simple, and impactful.
  • Communicate the Core: We must communicate, embed, and reinforce this core into everything we say and do as leaders, everything we do / don’t do as a team, and it must give meaning to everything our people routinely experience and do.

We will explore all three C’s throughout this series to enable every leader the ability to provide organizational clarity to your people and team. This series will not, however, provide a specific framework or set of steps to follow to create your team’s essential core. Though we provide several frameworks to consider for those interested in learning more, we believe that every team’s essential core is unique. What may provide clear purpose, direction, and inspiration for one team may not for another. It’s an organizational excavation that becomes clearer and/or refined over time. But we will offer several considerations for leaders and teams as you endeavor to create your essential core.

“Leadership requires two things: A vision of the world that does not exist yet and the ability to communicate it.”

─Simon Sinek, Start with Why


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