The Power of Clarity

Magnifying_glass - wikipedia-commons-8-80 I want clarity. I need clarity. I love clarity. Sometimes I beg for clarity. (No, these are not the lyrics to an old Cheap Trick song.)

Though we can’t always get complete clarity on everything, here are four areas where pushing for clarity can be extremely valuable and powerful on the job.

1. Goal clarity

“What are we really shooting for? When we’re done, how will we know we have been successful?” If I don’t ask questions like these when I begin a project, I will probably spin my wheels and get frustrated. Or I’ll waste time and effort trying to solve the wrong problem. And if I’m working with others, we will likely all be shooting for different goals and trying to solve different problems.

Just as entering a specific address into GPS is the first step in determining the best route to drive to the desired destination, clarifying the goal at work paves the way for a more effective, efficient and collaborative route towards success.

2. Clear expectations

Recently, I said to a client, “I did not know you were expecting that from us,” soon after we started our project together. Fortunately, we realized the disconnect sooner rather than later. And we had been clear enough at a high-level up to that point that we were able to clarify the next level of detail without a hitch in our relationship or a delay in our work. But we had to devote the time to get clear and stay clear together – through discussions and pre- and post-meeting emails.

3. Clear and timely performance feedback

“Why are you waiting to tell me this until now; I’ve never heard this feedback before!” This is an all-too-common refrain in annual performance reviews. Too often, leaders are vague or silent when they need to be clear and timely in giving difficult performance feedback.

Avoiding a difficult, uncomfortable or inconvenient conversation now just makes it even more difficult later. Not only is it a big tick-off factor to the one who should have been told this message 6 months ago, but it lessens the power of the message, and it hurts the relationship. Yes, it’s better to give the feedback late than never. But why not communicate clearly sooner?

4. Clarity in next steps and follow-through actions

“I know we’ve discussed this issue in prior meetings, but I don’t remember where we landed.” Ever been in a meeting where someone said this? And you wind up spending more time rehashing the issue and still don’t resolve it? Unfortunately, so have I.

If we will get in the habit of taking the last few minutes in a meeting to clarify who is on point to do what by when in order to move forward towards resolving the issue, we will save everyone valuable time and energy.

Let’s be clear: clarity is not always possible — at least right away. And it takes courage, confidence and faith to move forward in these cases. But it takes these things to push for clarity, too, and it’s worth the effort.

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Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. In his work as a consultant and executive coach, he helps leaders gain the clarity, confidence and courage they need to move forward. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.