3 ways to be clear from a distance

by | Apr 22, 2013 | Blog | 0 comments

Got clarity of distance?

Clarity remains the “it” leadership skill.

Bob Johansen, Patrick Lencioni and Karen Martin have all been emphasizing the need to explain goals and directions clearly. (Check out the blog post 3 tips for leading with clarity.)

When you’re clear about your goals and have clearly expressed them and the actions you and others need to take, you’re better positioned for success.

You and others can move faster with higher-quality concentration, less rework and greater energy. You improve your ability to achieve better performance on three levels: individual, team and organization.

We generally think we achieve the best clarity when we’re up close and tightly focused on the center of our activity or goal.

Yet, problems can arise with our brain, which hurts our ability to do good work. This is especially challenging when you’re implementing strategic initiatives or other projects with multiple moving parts.

Our working memory fills up, and we become stuck.

We get tunnel vision, and we can’t think of new ideas…Our short-term emotions take over and we become most comfortable with what we’re most familiar with…We become fearful so we concentrate on averting losses rather than achieving gains.

Our work environment makes things worse. Our jam-packed schedule doesn’t allow any breathing room to slow down, which will help us think more clearly.

In these situations, though, we need to remember that great value exists in clarity of distance.

Distance creates perspective and clarity.

When we stand back, we’re able to look at the forest, not just the trees, plants and weeds. We can observe patterns because we’re not caught up in the details. We either haven’t been exposed to them—if we’re an objective observer—or we’ve successfully set them aside.

Our observations can unlock fresh ideas, including new ways of thinking, new alternatives, new possibilities.

We’re able to do higher-quality planning and goal-setting because we’re freed up from the details and drama that take up space in our working memory and limit our ability to think clearly and creatively.

Clarity of distance is extremely powerful, as I was reminded when working with the NeuroLeadership Group last week in helping deliver a brain-based coaching skills program.

How do we get clarity of distance? Try these three ways, ideally together.

1. Work with others. Coaches and other trusted advisors are objective observers. Through our training and experience, we coaches are able to see patterns and other things that our clients can’t. As one of my coaches once told me, “You can’t read the label from inside the bottle.” By feeding back what we’re observing to those too close to see clearly, we’re able to support our clients to gain fresh perspectives.

2. Step aside. View the problem from a new perspective. For example, ask “If I were advising my best friend or my successor in my job, what would I tell them to do in this situation?” In fact, in their new book Decisive: How To Make Better Choices in Life and Work, authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath suggest this technique as part of their decision-making process.

3. Take a time out. Take a break from work rather than muscle through. Put aside the plan, report, the recommendations or whatever for several hours, or even better several days. When you return, you’ll be refreshed and see things with a slightly different lens.

Working with a coach is usually more powerful than stepping aside or taking a time out. However, these small steps are better than no steps.

How can you benefit from clarity of distance?


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