“There’s so much stuff going on, we just don’t know which way to look.”
That could be good. Invariably, it’s not, and more typically reflects challenge, strain and a big problem to solve. It manifests in endless priorities and workforces unclear of where to focus and on what. “Be aware of the rocking horse. Don’t mistake energy for progress.”
Ultimately, not knowing which way to look reflects incongruent leadership and misaligned objectives. In a world where ‘priorities’ have multiplied exponentially and complexity spikes, is it any wonder that the path forwards is neither clear nor simple?
Opacity, complexity and misalignment are the antithesis of what and where leadership needs to be, and how it must communicate. Left to fester, the impact is catastrophic and leads to frustrated, political organisations, solving the wrong problems with one arm tied behind their backs.
We believe the real problem for leadership to solve is broken communication. The root cause often either a period of exponential growth or an organisation having lost sight of its strategy and goals.
By going back to basics and focusing on ‘clarity’ and ‘simplicity,’ leaders can realign organisations to encourage growth and an altogether better- functioning execution machine.
Clarity and simplicity are critical mechanics for ideating then communicating the direction and vision of an organisation. Whilst straightforward in concept, application can prove problematic. Clarity refers to the quality of being clear and easy to understand and free from ambiguity. Simplicity is the quality of being uncomplicated and therefore inherently free from intricacy.
When nothing works, and no one knows why, leadership must go back to basics. From the pillars of purpose and ambition, the job to do is to achieve collective and blinding clarity on where to go, and a simple plan for how to go there together well. Then thinking bloody hard about how to communicate and activate it.
Understanding what clarity and simplicity means to your organisation will only achieve so much without buy-in from the collective. How business leaders align organisation purpose with the personal purposes of their employees, is the million-dollar question consultancies around the world battle with daily.
Senior leadership teams must create the opportunity for as many people as possible to get their fingerprints on the business blueprint. This requires a level of autonomy for employees that celebrates individuality, yet aligns them with the wider company goals – the principle of ‘freedom within the frame,’ an approach which we have structurally embedded at one of the world’s largest FMCGs.
However, this can and does lead to difficult conversations. Where individuals do not align with the collective, ‘hard to swallow’ compatibility questions are bound to surface.
Communication is the lifeblood of an organisation and it’s critical for business leaders to communicate purpose and priorities well. Communication is also an essential leadership skill. The most successful leaders we see continually and skillfully apply the skill in relationships at strategic, tactical, and operational levels.
Without effective communication a leader cannot and should not expect employees to connect and engage. This can compound a variety of damaging impacts on the business’ success. Keeping employees motivated and driven is paramount for any leader. But, to achieve this in the first place, business leaders need to grow and nurture a strong line of communication.
Only by communicating purpose and priorities with belief and honesty, and by creating clarity and simplicity that cuts through complexity and ambiguity, can leaders tap into the true collective brilliance of their employees.
Whether you’re a fast growing startup or a corporate titan, clarity and simplicity must percolate throughout your business. These are the building blocks of alignment, growth and brilliant execution. By neglecting them you risk flatlining and spiking employee retention. Best in class organisations create clarity around the role they play in their customers lives, have a clear and shared ambition with simply articulated goals which the entire organisation can align around.
These principles demystify roles and bring laser focus to the jobs to be done. They allow employees to do what they love, have energy for and do best. Effective leaders create the conditions for people to thrive through clear and simple messaging. Effective Leadership sweats the thinking, clarity and articulation of exactly what the message is. Clarity and simplicity. At the very heart.
With thanks to Entrepreneur Tribune September 25, 2023