I think we all have experienced those moments when someone says something that resonates very strongly with you. It sticks firmly in your mind and remains ever present.
For me, one such occasion occurred in 2012 when psychologist, leadership coach and mentor, Roger Dingle made a statement that penetrated deeply:
“The psychological response to a lack of clarity is anxiety”
As I processed this statement, my mind replayed countless videos of instances where I had experienced an anxious reaction, due to having no idea what was expected of me, or why on earth we were being asked to chart a particular course.
“Is this what I’m expected to do?” I assume I’m supposed to do X, but if I stuff this up, will they get angry with me?”
As I talk with clients, former colleagues, friends, acquaintances and family members about their experiences of clarity in their workplaces, I’m amazed at how many speak of the haze in which they operate and the negative impact this has on their daily work life.
When these experiences accumulate, it’s the sort of thing which slowly wears a person down – a contributing factor to some people sadly, burning out.
In a world where so many are under enormous time pressure to do their jobs, the last thing we need are practices which effectively act as smoke machines, reducing our visibility:
Meetings which drag on without achieving desired results
Conversations regardless of how pleasant they may be, that go around in circles
Projects with tight deadlines yet lacking clarity about who is required to do what.
Creating clarity in our workplaces must be a priority for leaders and staff, at all levels within an organisation. The good news is there are many simple, yet highly effective strategies which can be employed to make an immediate impact.
I have long been inspired by the simplicity, yet genius of the work of Edward de Bono. One of his acronyms AGO (Aim – Goal -Objective) is a simple tool to have at the forefront of your mind when mapping out what lies ahead.
“What’s my AGO here?”
This thought bubble can be used as a starting point for so many of a leaders’ interactions; whether for 1:1 conversations; small team meetings or whole staff meetings. It gives purpose, sharpens focus and increases the likelihood of outcomes being achieved.
A golden nugget of a strategy to transform the effectiveness of meetings is to identify an outcome for all agenda items.
Is the purpose of the item to: Discuss? Decide? Brainstorm? Clarify? etc. If you can make a practice of adding this requirement to your agenda items, your meetings will become far more focused and effective – saving time, clearing the fog and removing the associated negative feelings which accompany a lack of clarity in meetings.
I have one caveat regarding the relevance of these strategies for those who work in a small company or who lead a stand alone, small team.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that due to your small scale, you’re immune to the problems associated with unclear expectations etc. You only need two people for there to be issues with clarity and those issues can become more compressed within the confines of a small team.
So, for leaders and staff at all levels, in organisations of all sizes: by intentionally employing strategies such as those identified above, you can help ensure your workplaces keep clear of the smoke haze which is too often associated with Burn-out.