Be explicit is my focus word/phrase for 2021. The definition is “(of a statement or piece of writing) clear and easy to understand, so that you have no doubt what is meant,” according to the Oxford Dictionaries.
Choosing this focus phrase helps me practice empathy for others and myself.
As we embrace the new year, we’re still slogging through work conditions forced upon us last spring due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Consider:
- The mushing together of our personal and professional lives as many of us continue to work at home.
- The blurring of time since our days still seem more similar than different from each other. (“Blursday” was #7 of the Oxford Dictionaries 47 new words of 2020. Talk about overwhelm of a new kind. Look at how our vocabulary expanded last year!)
- The increased craving to be connected to our devices so we can stay in touch with colleagues, family and friends.
These conditions contribute to greater strain on our brain. The brain gets fatigued, which makes it harder to focus, concentrate, and store important points in our working memory.
And when we’re practicing continuous partial attention, that is constantly scanning what’s going on around us without fully focusing on just one thing, we can find our stress level increasing. That hurts our ability to function. For example, even with all of my apps and other tools, I find it’s still easy to overlook important messages, forget a task or deadline, and sometimes not even register what someone has said to me. (Yes, guilty as charged!)
Plus, we’re juggling a lot of information, much of it uncertain, ambiguous, and fluctuating.
As a result, it helps to be as explicit as possible in the interest of self-preservation and a desire to be kind to others.
Three situations especially benefit from being explicit:
- Carefully articulating commitments and other action items with clear deadlines so everyone knows what’s expected of them and by when.
- Being mindful and clear about intentions and plans to avoid going or sending others down a rabbit hole or on a wild goose chase.
- When changing directions or pivoting, making sure you reinforce principles, values or other guidelines to help you and others stay on course.
Being explicit helps in other ways too, such as:
- Being transparent about what you can talk about and what you can’t.
- Confirming assumptions and interpretations so everyone is on the same page.
- Double and triple-checking the accuracy of key information, such as correct dates with the right time zones and up-to-date log-in information for the correct platforms to make sure people join you for calls at the right time.
- Clarifying pronouns and other identifiers so everyone knows who “he,” “she,” and “they” are.
When you’re explicit, you reduce the effort people need to make to figure out what they need to do. So it’s easier for them to follow through. And they can devote more time and energy to the content of the work they’re doing. They’ll also perceive you as more trustworthy and likeable.
Even though I’ve known about the value of selecting one word or phrase to serve as an overarching theme for a period of time, I’ve not done it consistently. This year feels different though.
Having a focal phrase is a useful way to simplify options in order to cope better with increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Yes, it’s a VUCA world.
What about you? Do you have a focal word or phrase for 2021? If, not, consider joining me in being explicit.
Connect the dots plus dot the “i”s to be more intentional, inquisitive and inclusive
How well are you tapping into the skills and wisdom you need to lead in a VUCA world?
All the old playbooks are out-of-date. Instead, you need to reach inside yourself, tap into your wisdom, and connect the dots for yourself and others.
To start, you can use these 5 tips to embrace your humanity and become a better leader.