Is your team in need of clarity?

We recently worked with an executive team that was working very hard but not seeing the results.

Perhaps you are part of a team like this? You are dedicated, work long hours, are constantly online, perhaps even take conference calls at 2.00 am, but your company is just not seeing the results.

What is missing is clarity.

Clarity means knowing what to focus on to get results. Clarity drives consistent behaviour and it eliminates unnecessary activity. Without true clarity you end up having too many priorities (which really mean none at all) and your behavioural standards are unclear.

Clear-as-a-Bell-Leadership-Works

This leads to confusion about what is most important and how to behave. Instead of the concentration of effort on a few things done really well that everyone supports, precious resources are scattered and diluted on too many things.

That’s exactly what was happening with the team I was working with. Some regions were doing better than others but overall when you added it all together, the sum of the parts was disappointing.

Effort was not being rewarded with results and it was taking a toll on them.

The confidence and energy in the team was low. What hurt the most was that good people were leaving for the competition and they felt powerless to stop it.

The real problem was they were working hard but not together. They did not have clarity on what was most important for the organisation. Each person had their own version of the goal but they were not the same. Due to these different goals the harder they worked the more they moved apart.

The pressure was on. “I need to get everyone rowing in the same direction” the CEO told me.

To do this we first needed every executive to see that their number one priority was to act in the best interests of the whole organisation. Their 1st team was the executive team and not the functional or regional teams they were leading back in operations. So often in the team at the top we see a lack of understanding on this important concept.

Individuals think that if their department is winning they are achieving their goals, but unless the business as a whole is victorious no one can be.

This was very hard for some. They had so much invested and they kept putting the hat back on of the team they were leading. What they lacked was the clarity around the bigger picture – the business’s single purpose and how they should contribute to it.

To find this clarity the team set about answering the six critical clarity questions.

These are the questions that get everyone at the top on the same page, focusing on the main goal and purpose of the business. They also ensure that each person’s effort is assisting the main cause and that the resources of the company are being properly channeled.

Through this process the team was now asking the right ultimate question – ‘how do we as executives unlock the full potential of the whole organisation?’ The moment this happened the energy of the team went up.

One of the six questions asks – ‘what is most important right now?’ What is the team’s single most important priority in the next 6-12 months? This question creates the focus and concentration of resources that leads to a breakthrough in performance.

For this team they felt that they had lost their ability and belief to close really big deals. This was a major contributor to their disappointing results and everyone believed passionately that this was their collective number one priority.

Within a few hours we had written up the main goal and identified five key activities that everyone was involved in to achieve the goal.

The excitement in the room was tangible. The rallying cry of the team had been set and the momentum and tone of the team had shifted materially. They couldn’t wait to get back to their teams and communicate the outcome, anxious now to get the whole organisation committed to the main cause.

So will the team turn the tide on its results?

It’s very early to tell. The task ahead of them is demanding. But everyone on the team is now in the same boat, rowing together. Now they have a fighting chance. They have even had their first big win and the belief is coming back.

Do you want to start this process with your own team?

Please add your thoughts and comment on the article in the space below and we will send you a copy of the six essential clarity questions.

13 Comments

  1. Retha September 30, 2015 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    As long as they stay on the same boat, they will get the benefits, hope they will stay

  2. Sundresan Naidoo September 30, 2015 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    It is so apt – everyone knows basically what they want, but everyone does it differently with no synergy and not understanding why it is not going right. If leadership is not clear and each person has a different understanding, obvioulsy its going to fliter down and team’s are not going to see the golden thread

  3. Koos Fourie September 30, 2015 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Hi Grant. This is a powerful article and much needed. In general, we are masters in complicating business allowing teams to be confused and distracted. From our Team Journey sessions with you in 2012 we reaped a lot of benefits and value for Sasol but unfortunately many changes and initiatives kicked in afterwards including employee turnover.

    The same symptoms are visible that are described in this article and we all know you can only sustain results for a short term if the focus is not laser sharp. We are busy with a process to make things less complicated but the behaviour and culture of the past is not easy to change. This also impacts the motivational climate within the business with its own consequences.

    I think the questions can help me to regain focus and get the team to row together in the same direction

    Regards

    Koos

    • Grant Ashfield
      Grant Ashfield September 30, 2015 at 6:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks Koos – the work we did together in Sasol in 2011 and 2012 still stands out as some of the most rewarding work of my career. I think it was because there was such a commitment (and strong example from the top) to making sure the business really worked. The results you delivered during that time by working together on the few things that really mattered was incredible. Thank you for your note. Best, Grant

  4. Johan Coetzee September 30, 2015 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Good question to ask & answer but needs to be support by the commitment to act and adhere to behavioural standards

  5. Patricia Ryall September 30, 2015 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    I work as an executive Coach and I see this all the time, in fact my tagline is Clarity, Confidence, Change.

    The reality is that people want to be energised about their work and individual and team energy is really impacted when people can let know the anxiety and frustration of not quite knowing how to improve as it seems they are working flatout. They are but often without conviction or real direction, Excellent article, would appreciate the 6 questions..

    • Grant Ashfield
      Grant Ashfield September 30, 2015 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks Patricia – you are doing great work. I like that Change is the 3rd element in the sequence – too often we expect it without have done the work on the first two. This is why it so often stalls.

  6. Dennis da Silva September 30, 2015 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Hello Grant,
    Thanks for the news letter always find them very informative and interesting even in my small business, one small step in the right direction can make a huge difference.
    Dennis

  7. Julie Sandilands October 1, 2015 at 8:28 am - Reply

    In my view, there is always the problem of having to serve many different masters. All of whom believe that their work is priority. This can lead to scattered work, everyone always getting to 80% or 90% complete but never being able to close an item out.

  8. Ivy Morulane October 1, 2015 at 10:03 am - Reply

    Hi Grant

    Thanks for the newsletter, I think if the executive can get the buying in of the employees by ensuring that they take ownership of the company in terms team building sesions like these. The information is informative and if implemented can give more results.

  9. Bernice October 1, 2015 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    I feel like this is the team I am in. We need to answer the question, ‘what is most important right now’. I strongly believe that the strength of teams lie in a common focus, that one thing that we all lay our lives down to achieve. Aligning all energies to achieve one critical step is the beginning of achieving a thousand steps. Am very curious on the 6 questions, thank you for always refreshing and challenging me.

  10. Brett Nicolson October 9, 2015 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Great article – thanks Grant. I struggle with clarity in my own job, which I guess is a necessary precursor to clarity in my team. The problems you describe about lack of clarity really ring true, I’d appreciate the 6 questions to help!

  11. Steve Buck April 8, 2016 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Hi Grant, this is good stuff. Spending time to figure out what the right question or questions to ask is something I try to do when figuring out how to address a situation. Learning to step back and dwell on what the right questions are should done more often. When I hear the phrase ‘with the wisdom of hindsight’, it often means the right questions were not asked at the appropriate time. This may have happened as a result of not stepping back and thinking about the right questions. When addressing a need, I find the rush to answer ‘how’ questions precedes the ‘what’ questions which better define the ‘how’ questions. I have seen great results achieved by starting with quality ‘what’ questions. Thanks for your thought provoking articles.

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