How Leaders Can Turn Clarity Into A Problem-Solving Superpower

How Leaders Can Turn Clarity Into A Problem-Solving Superpower

Yellow Pink Blue Post Its Clarity Precedes Success

Recently I was facilitating a team meeting with a client when the discussion started to go off the rails. They are a rapidly growing company in the internet space and the team is extremely motivated to leverage the potential in their market. In this meeting, that motivation was translating to highly charged emotions about the issues they believed were holding them back from reaching that potential.

They told me how they were pulled in a thousand directions at once and didn’t know how to get everything done. They told me about customer issues that they didn’t know how to solve. Mostly they told me about the overwhelming number and scope of changes they were expected to keep up with and adapt to.

Quite naturally, as they tried to identify all the challenges and issues and come up with solutions, the discussion turned to who was at fault for the problems and who would take responsibility for the solutions which would mean adding new tasks to already full plates.

As I listened to these intelligent, talented, and motivated team members trying to get clarity on the problem-solution equation, I realized they were putting their focus on the wrong thing. They’d lost sight of the outcomes we were all trying to achieve, and why.

The clarity they needed in this situation was clarity of purpose and mission.

Clarity, the first of what I call the 6 Facets of Human Needs™, gives a leader the power to channel human energy in a specific direction. And clarity of purpose, usually set out as Mission and Values, defines the ultimate objective, the “True North” direction for your entire team. When the team has clarity of purpose, and when that purpose is their focus, problems are just the things that have to be navigated in order to reach that destination.

This team had already defined their Mission and Core Value as providing the highest quality customer experience in the industry, and had done the work to gain clarity about what that looked like in action. “Look,” I told them, “Nothing has really changed. There are new issues and challenges, but the destination is the same. We just have to focus on that and make sure that the decisions we make and the solutions we create will get us to that place in the end.”

The energy shifted immediately. The team had been trying to get clarity, but they were focused on getting clarity about the problems and the cause of the problems so that they could get clarity about the solutions and who had to own the solutions. When we shifted the focus to clarity about the ultimate objective, the destination, we transcended the personal and made the post mortems and finger-pointing exercises irrelevant.

Your team needs clarity around three things: Where you’re going as a company, how you’re going to get there, and the role they play in achieving that objective. Each of these people were doing their best to serve in their roles, but they’d lost the clarity around the destination.

When this team started aligning the problem-solving process with the Mission-Vision statement they had a single point of focus to guide them in making decisions. It became a template of sorts for the shape of the solution that was transferable from one issue to the next.

The next team meeting I attended this team was solving issues against that True North. I heard things like, “So we could solve this internally, but is that really focused on the customer experience?” They’re making better decisions, making them faster, and have greater unity and confidence in their direction and ability to reach the destination.

People need clarity. Without it they’re confused. And confused people don’t make good decisions or create smart solutions. This team is now using the clarity of focus on the destination to be problem-solving superstars. How can you, as a business leader, help your teams do the same?

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