For many years I thought the opening line of Johnny Nash’s hit was “I can see clearly now Lorraine has gone” The realisation that the lyric was about the weather brought for me a whole new meaning to the song! Seeing clearly is such an important thing for teams that managers really should think more about it. Rather like that vet on the glasses advert (who can’t find the pulse in his assistance fury winter hat), managers who don’t provide clarity for their teams are making a serious mistake.
I want to suggest that there are two-forms of clarity that managers could all do with, the long view and the short view. Perhaps it’s my engineering apprenticeship origins (having a big and a tiny hammer in the standard issue toolkit), but I’ve always warmed to these two extremes. The little car and the big car, the little suitcase and the big suitcase. What more do you need in life, isn’t the middle always a compromise 😉
Great managers who get the fundamentals right will always look to bring clarity for their teams, at both these extremes.
Long view clarity
Long view clarity is about purpose. It’s the big picture stuff. Where are we heading? What’s the main thing, the direction we are going to travel together? Getting this right provides a guiding star for the team to follow. It’s vital not only at an organisational level, but definitely at a functional. You as the manager need to get this clear, because if you don’t understand it, then your team members never will! You have to have a precise view of your teams future world, what will you be, what will you have achieved, how will you be operating? Articulate this as clearly and precise as possible. Write it down, discuss it with your boss and your team, fine tune it and make it the guiding star that ensures you are all focused on the same thing.
Once you’ve got it mapped out, then you have to make it live. It’s got to be front of mind, not bottom of drawer! Simply that means you have to keep drawing attention to it. Pointing it out and reminding every one of it. You need to aim at highlighting at least an aspect of it once every month. It will become the barometer by which you and the team understand whether they are busy about the correct things.
Short view clarity
The short view is equally important. If the long view gives purpose and direction, the short ensures that the team operate within the correct boundaries. What you need to do is drop into the day to day, every day.
Now let’s be clear, I’m not advocating micromanagement, but leadership.
Everyday it’s your job to steer, to nudge, to point in the right direction. You have to set the boundaries of what’s ok what’s not. Every manager has to be the custodian of the standard. If you don’t draw the operational lines where they are needed, the team will assume that what they do is perfectly OK (even when it’s not). See it as highlighting the sequence of events that will lead to the long view position. It’s probably true to say that nothing happens without a sequence of events, so it’s a management foundation to ensure that the whole team understands what it is and is therefore working towards it in an acceptable way.
Clarity is one of the two foundations of being able empower your team (the other is competence). Step up your effort in making sure that the long and the short clarity exists for everyone you manage. You do that, then you’ll find the going is so much easier, even if the rain has come!
Check out our other management foundations in our up and coming open course.