Archives June 2020

Be The CRO – 2 Ways to Communicate with Clarity

Much of success in business relies on getting everyone on the same page.

And inevitably someone has to choose to lead the charge in getting clarity. 

In the Army, we reviewed ‘comms’ (communications) procedures during pre-mission briefings to ensure that everyone would be on the “same frequency.”

In this case, gaining clarity could mean the difference between life and death.

In team sports like football and baseball, we see players and coaches using all sorts of signals and methods to achieve communications clarity to have precise execution of the play.

Without clarity things fall apart as the play unfolds; the feedback loop is immediate and obvious—from both the players and the fans.

The Challenge

At work, it is not as obvious as the fans booing you when there is a loss of alignment and focus.

I see it every day, and I understand why it’s so easy to fall into this trap.

We’re all uniquely designed and are naturally inclined to communicate in unique ways.

The goal is to understand your natural behaviour and make positive adjustments so that everyone clearly understands your message.

Clarifying Clarity Clues

Here are also two important clues to clear up the murky fog of communication and gain greater clarity –

Don’t assume that everyone hears (and visualizes) your message.

We have a natural tendency to assume that something is clear to us; we assume that it would be clear to everyone else. 

Using the sports analogy, teams usually have set plays, and they rehearse them in practice for weeks before they execute them in the game.

Work situations may not have a playbook, so when the leader calls the play, team members create their individual mental diagrams/pictures of what it’s supposed to look like.

Read about different images of the future


Some are distracted and never even hear the message. 

As a leader, we must regularly and publicly clarify our expectations.  

At the top of the organization, most of these expectations are at the 37,000-foot level. 

As we move down the organization, the clarity needs to get more granular as standards more specifically to the tasks.

This is hard work because it takes mental discipline, time, and energy to clarify what is expected of our employees and to supervise the level of detail is required.

Read about expectations

Clarify Where You Are

How are you doing on clarifying standards and expectations?

Reflect on it yourself and look for times when people were not on the same frequency with you.

What happened?

Whose responsibility was it?

Get feedback from a couple of your stronger players on how well you are doing on clarity.

6 Questions To Bring Clarity to Your First Team!

I have worked with dozens of companies and organizations addressing both team and organizational challenges.

I am always surprised that most leadership teams have no idea who their ‘First Team’ is.

The ‘First Team’  – best articulated by Patrick Lencioni – is the idea that true leaders prioritize supporting their fellow leaders over their direct reports. That they are responsible to their peers more than they are to their individual, or “Second”, teams.

One of the first areas I address in our consulting sessions with clients is organizational clarity.

Read more about communication with focus & clarity

I need to know if the executive team are on the same page regarding foundational concepts of their business.

How do these teams answer questions such as: Why does this organization exist? What is our strategy? What are our goals? etc.

Without clear, consistent answers to these questions, confusion and hesitation begin to plague an organization.

Read more about why things are not getting done, despite having a mission

Creating alignment at the executive level is essential to building and maintaining a healthy organization.

Imagine the frustration for employees to have to navigate the politics and confusion caused by leaders who are misaligned.

The slightest bit of daylight between executive team members can have an overwhelming impact on employees below.

The Six Critical Questions

In our sessions I facilitate the exploration of the following six questions:

  • Why do we exist? Beyond making money
  • What do we do? What is it we exist to do?
  • How will we behave? What are our core values
  • How will we succeed? How do we make the best decisions.
  • What’s most the most important work that we need to achieve: Right now? The one thing that when accomplished will significantly advance the company
  • Who does what? Roles and responsibilities

Like in much of leadership, these questions may appear simple on the surface but are profoundly difficult to answer

And even harder to adhere to.

Test your Team

Many executives assume that they are on the same page as their peers, but once they get in a room together and openly discuss these concepts, this is not the case.

Interested in conducting a simple, but eyeopening experiment?

Have your team members sit together.

Give everyone a sheet of paper and 5 minutes. to write down their answers to the question “What do we do?

Have each person read their answer out and listen to each answer in silence.

Read more about the power of silence

I think you will be shocked by the discrepancies amongst you leadership team members.

Then consider this …

If the key leaders in your organization are not in agreement about “What do we do? how on earth could anyone else understand?

Seize the Advantage

If you ensure your team and company are clear and aligned from the top down on the answers to this six critical questions you will have an insurmountable advantage over your competition.

7 Steps To Leading in A Crisis: Don't Be an Ass

4 Things You Need To Do Before The Next Crisis “Nobody Saw Coming”

As we navigate one of the biggest global crises many of us will ever experience in our lifetime, people around the world are in a state of what’s known as crisis management. While managing crises seems like an effective solution, it just means we’re in a constant state of doing the bare minimum to keep our head above water.

Of course, some crises are out of our control. But what we DO have control over is taking steps to be prepared (physically, mentally, financially, emotionally, and so on) for whatever life throws our way. We can also be proactive in dealing with problems as we encounter them.

What is crisis management?

Crisis management happens when you’re too busy dealing with the problem at hand so small emergencies grow into large problems or crises. We become overwhelmed rather than investing time and resources into long-term solutions…Solutions that could prevent the crisis from occurring in the first place.

If you’re constantly in a state of crisis management, chances are your productivity is almost nil. And your nerves are likely shot.

I heard from a reader who was struggling with crises or emergencies that continually get in the way of their priorities. Now, I’m not 100% sure what’s going on in this person’s life. But if crises and emergencies are routine, then they aren’t crises and emergencies…They’re normal life for that person.

It reminds me of an old story about a suitcase manufacturer based in Montreal.

They made beautiful, high-quality suitcases that people might have used during the glory days of plying the seas via ocean liner. Sadly, they were slowly going out of business. People were no longer sailing. Instead, they were flying and required smaller suitcases.

When asked why this company didn’t start making small suitcases, they responded resolutely that they “couldn’t switch over because they were too busy making large ones!”

The suitcase company was in a state of crisis management. So, what can be done to put an end to crisis management and deal with problems as they come our way?

By the way, don’t miss this post where I share the three things you need to lead through a crisis.

Got a problem? Fix it NOW!

If you’re going to put an end to crisis management, you’ve got to get out in front of the problems. You need to stop them before they occur.

It’s not that small business owners and non-profit leaders DON’T want to nip problems in the bud. But doing so requires the two precious commodities we’re usually short on, time and money.

And since there are always more tasks than people to do them, it’s easy to see why crisis management is a problem.

Or why during a crisis we just keep making large suitcases instead of biting the bullet and switching over to what our customers want.

When you’re fighting for your life, the urge to stay with what you know and where you are comfortable is natural and completely understandable.

You begin to feel like you’re sinking. Your perspective is diminished. Short-term survival instincts kick in.

You can’t manage if you’re always in a crisis.

If you’re dealing with competing priorities, it can turn into a form of crisis management. Click here for some actionable steps for dealing with competing priorities.

How to eliminate crisis management

You didn’t get to where you are all at once. You did it one small step at a time.

So you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that it’s the same as eliminating crisis management.

Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Where did it start? The next time you’re faced with a problem, ask yourself and the people around you where it began. Find the true cause of the problem. Even if you don’t have the time or resources to fix the fundamental cause of the problem, just by identifying it, you’ve made progress in eliminating crisis management in your organization.
  2. What are the quick wins? There probably are many problems that can be fixed by making small changes.
  3. Are there sacred cows? These issues sound like, “We’ve always done it that way.”
  4. What is your collective intellectual horsepower? Ask your staff, Board, or a mentor for their thoughts and suggestions for improving the organization.

Like the suitcase company, if you’re too busy dealing with the crisis to fix the causes, you’ll be stuck with a failing enterprise.

Only by fearlessly shining a light on what’s going on in your company will allow you to identify – then fix – your problems.

If you’re interested in going even deeper or moving your career to the next level, you’ll also want to have a look at my 1-on-1 coaching services.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check these out, too:

A Curated List of Crisis Leadership Articles
9 Stupid Management Practices (and what to do instead)
The 6T’s To Know What To Delegate

This article was originally published on September 25, 2015, and has been updated.