Every organization knows what they do, janitors can say “yeah, I sweep the floor” sales teams can say “yeah, we sell stuff”.
Besides the how, does everyone know specifically though where they’re going?
Or why they exist?
Clarity means accuracy.
A lack of clarity means a lack of accuracy in hitting your targets – your long-term goals.
The slightest lack of accuracy, accumulated over time, can really have profound effects.
For instance, If the nose of a plane departing from Los Angeles and heading to New York City is off by 1 % – they’ll end up in Delaware by the time they hit the east coast.
If a sniper has to hit a headshot from a mile away, and they’re off 1% – it’s a miss, and mission failure.
To have accuracy, you need to have a crystal clear idea of what specifically you’re aiming for. You need to know what your specific target is and what that looks like.
This leads us into the first question you need to answer for yourself:
1. Where are we going? – What is our vision
You can’t strive for that bulls-eye accuracy without being able to physically see your target, and trying to play the game against your competition with a blindfold on, is a loser’s game at best.
For the sake of your organization’s 10-year vision – accuracy matters over the long-haul. Which means clarity matters significantly.
I know you know this – but the fastest way from point A to point B is a straight line.
Considering this… I want you to imagine a team of painters.
They know they want to create a masterpiece of art, let’s say they want to craft an artistic masterpiece of an elephant.
Here’s the thing though, most great artists see their picture in their own eyes before they’ve finished painting it, or even started painting it. whether this is through visualization, imaginary planning, etc.
In a group setting – all the painters could have a different “picture” in their own minds.
They ALL know they want to create a masterpiece of an elephant, they might personally have a crystal-clear image of how big to make the nose, where to put the ridges, etc. but does everyone have that SAME image?
Here’s the thing, just like that elephant painting, your vision DOESN’T EXIST YET. There is no “finish-line” that everyone can directly look at, as if you were all in a track race. This means there is a high vulnerability for an ambiguous picture.
So how do you get clarity on the picture collectively?
You achieve clarity through communication, encouraging open dialogue, and encouraging the atmosphere where if people aren’t crystal clear on the company targets —it’s okay to ask so that everybody can be on the same page – because clarity & accuracy are significant.
Open dialogue means you ask questions, but not just any questions – the right questions. As leaders, you must have the right answers to these questions. You must be able to map them out crystal clear to your organization. You have to make what you see, what the company can see. You have to see eye to eye; you have to accurately see and believe the same vision of the company’s future.
As the CEO of your company, you should be able to write a 2-paged, double spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font paper on what your vision of your company’s future looks like.
You can then share this with your subordinates to create a crystal-clear image of what specifically the business should look like (how big that elephants’ nose will be, etc.) and how you’re going to make an impact. As well as, how you will add value to the market place, how others will feel, and how you will feel.
Once you get everyone to understand this picture unambiguously, you’ll get everyone going in the same direction and you’ll hit the bulls-eye every time.
You don’t have to worry about your LA to NYC route ending in Delaware instead. You don’t have to worry about that 1% that can screw up your end destination, whether you snipe your shot or not— the clear picture of that company vision of the future.
People should communicate the language concerning your vision, the same across the board.
If I ask your team: “Where do you see your company in 5 years?”.
The closest you can get to getting everyone on payroll to answering that question the exact same, the more accurate, and the more dominant, you will be.
A lot of companies can tend to focus on just the specific market strategy, costs, etc. and what they can do right now vs. the competition; and though this is highly logical – if you’re not crystal clear on your target across the board, it renders you vulnerable to zig-zagging your way to the top, because not everybody is traveling in the same direction.
Clarity + effective communication = accuracy.
Once you have clarity and a sound vision, you must be guided by something greater than yourself. Even if you are crystal clear on your vision, if you’re struggling to get there and there’s not a strong enough reason to keep pushing, people will opt-out.
This leads us into the next question you must answer:
2. Why do we exist?
Equally as important to the vision, is the why.
Why are we going there? What’s the point?
Nobody wants to go for a championship just to hold it for 10 seconds and then move on with life. Nobody wants to build a billion-dollar organization just to stare at it, you can get the same thing on google images. It’s because doing these things, changes who you are.
The why signifies who you will be, and how specifically you will serve others and make a unique difference.
Who is your target market, and how can you solve their problems and improve their lives?
If you don’t have a why, it’s going to be very hard to stay motivated when the going gets tough.
And…let’s face it
Life isn’t sunshine and rainbows— the going will get tough.
Using a Jim Collins reference;
How are you going to be built to last?
In the podcast, At The Table with Patrick Lencioni – one of the best business consultants on the planet (potential bias here).
Pat discusses how he was working with a paving company and asked them what their core purpose was, namely, their reason for existence.
The workers replied similarly to “well…it’s to make infrastructure better, and pavements safer for cars to drive on…”
The leader corrects this by replying along the lines of “…C’mon you guys, that’s not why we do this…” The leader affirms, that they would still be in business, even if they were painting or roofing houses.
In other words, things that are not even in the line of what their current services provided are. The reason they work isn’t just to provide paving surfaces, they have a deeper why driving them.
The leader continues “…We do this because we want to give our employees a better life…” “…none of these people went to college, and we want them to buy a home, and send their kids to college…”
The company had a reason for existence that went well beyond just paving itself, that’s motivating, and inspiring to others. That helps when you’re around blacktop on a 95-degree hot summer day, and probably burning your hands every now and then.
This stuff isn’t meant to be esoteric and only there for the CEO to interpret either. Furthermore, when the company, or YOUR company, goes to make a big decision now; if the ‘decision makers’ in that meeting are clear on the values and reason for existence, the process of decision making will be much more efficient, and a better overall decision will be made.
As I always say “when values are clear, decisions are easy”
Assets, costs, aside – all the company has to really ask within their core is:
“How will this affect our people”
“How will it serve the way we are supposed to serve”?
Southwest Airlines faced an identical circumstance, whereas understanding their purpose guided them. Clarity of purpose is what helped them make an effective decision.
Southwest’s original purpose – their reason for existence was “To democratize travel”. They believed it wasn’t right that only wealthy families had the privilege to travel on vacations or visit their families from far away. They wanted to allow more opportunities at lesser costs.
One problem they faced in years past was that after 9/11, every airline started to charge for bags. For safety purposes, Southwest could have begun following suit, and certain customers may have felt safer with them.
Additionally, this could have potentially generated more revenue for them by allowing more seats per outgoing flight to be filled, as well as, help them keep up with other airlines for that same reason.
However, they realized what this decision would mean for them as a company. When faced with the question of whether or not to charge for bags, they simply referred to themselves “If we truly believe in our core purpose, we can’t go do this, it’s against who we are”. As a result of this judgement, Southwest didn’t do this one thing because it was against why they existed.
Though it may have been contradictory, having this clarity is what allowed them to stay authentic, stay pursuing their path, and accurately executing towards being the company they are today.
And through this, they are able to attract workers who have shared values and beliefs, and attract customers with shared values and beliefs. Additionally, they sustain credibility with customers, and equally important, they sustain credibility with themselves.
They stay true to who they are, and they remain accurate in executing the things they want to execute, how they will do that, and where they will take the company in the future.
Aside from tough decisions, the why serves as your trampoline for when the going gets tough. When you fall, you’re able to spring back up and refer to yourself “this is why I started”, “this is why I am here”.
As you can see, the two fundamental questions serve very similar purposes, but without clarity means you have people tugging and pulling in different directions.
You need to have clarity of focus, and clarity of existence.
Remember the power of compounding, consistency, and clarity, long-term, and what that means for achieving your goals.
Ask the right questions, communicate, dominate.