Enemies of lucidity: 4 ways to improve leadership clarity

If you know the enemy and you know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; ~ Sun Tzu

leadership clarity

When you’re headed into battle, it’s important to know all you can about the opponent. Sports teams study opponents before they face them on the court to anticipate their reactions and tendencies. Businesses look at similar companies in their field to find their niche and separate themselves from the competition. But what about those instances when the adversary comes from within?

We’ve talked a lot about clarity this month—so when it comes to finding leadership clarity within your business, distractions are always lying in wait to derail your path. But, if you can identify the opponent, get a strategy in place, and make a plan of attack, nothing can stop you.

So what do you do when you feel those distractions stealing your focus and robbing you of clarity? Here are a few tips on how to combat the enemies of lucidity get leadership clarity.

1. Details = Distraction.

Ever hear someone say, “He can’t see the forest for the trees”? That’s what happens when you focus on the details; you lose touch with the bigger picture issues, and it becomes harder to identify which details are important and which are not.

When we get into the details of an issue (i.e. getting hands-on with another person’s task, digging into every little detail) we lose the ability to think big picture. As a business leader, getting into details means you’re no longer the Captain steering the ship—you’re below deck where the enlisted men work. And what happens when there’s no one steering the ship? You get off course. Now, sometimes it’s necessary to get into the details. But when it’s not, remember: Delegate. Let those talented people you hired shine.

2. Schedule Time for Big Picture Thinking.

To keep the details at bay, and to make sure your team has all the direction they need, it’s important to have collaborative sessions to plan and direct key initiatives. Even if it means you literally have to set time aside in your schedule for a brainstorming session, put it on your calendar. It’s not a staff meeting, it’s not a one-sided conversation—it’s a time for you and your trusted creative problem solvers to share ideas on how you can go above and beyond what you already do well.

Having this kind of open-ended conversation means they will hear about your thoughts and dreams, giving them more context for the work they are doing today. It also means that you will hear better about the constraints and limits that they are facing. The end result will be a richer conversation with more fully developed plans and solutions. Don’t miss time to break away from the daily duties and think into the future rather than in the present.

3. Consider Your Environment.

Distraction lurks in little things like open tabs on your browser, a co-worker popping in to share a story, a messy desk, etc. It’s not just the physical space of your environment—it’s the culture of your workplace, too.  These distractions have quick fixes: shut the office door when you really need to get work done, clean off the desk, and stay focused on one task at a time. There’s nothing wrong with chatting with co-workers—just change your environment or culture to communicate what you need in regard to a distraction free workspace.

Some businesses have “no meeting hour”, others have “quiet time” to set some boundaries on chit-chat and help with focus.

4. Be agile.

When distraction throws a roadblock in your path, be flexible enough to work around the issue. Life happens and we can’t always anticipate the actions of our opponents. Say, for example, an employee shows up in your office and needs help resolving an HR issue—but you have a task that has to be finished within the hour. How can you do two things at once?

There are a few options for staying agile in this situation. A) Get the general idea of the HR issue at hand, but then explain the necessity to meeting your deadline before resolving the problem. You can digest while you work on the task and devote your full attention when you’re through. Or B) Delegate the task to someone else and handle the HR issue now. Either way—you do not have to do everything at once. Just prioritize based on your resources.

By staying agile and shifting things around a bit, everything can still fall into place where it needs to. Keep calm and carry on.

Getting clear—and staying clear, for that matter, is much easier than it sounds. As humans, we’re creatures of habit. It’s easy to let our old tendencies sneak their way back into our routines. Use your peripheral vision and watch out for distractions as you proceed and follow the mantra of the football team on Friday Night Lights: Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. You’re all set!

Now it’s your turn: How to you get rid of distractions that cloud your leadership clarity?

Photo credit:  kenteegardin (Flickr)

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is no stranger to small business. She's the Founder of Lumen -- a business that offers copywriting, social media services, and graphic design. When she's not contributing to the EnMast blog, you'll find her running or at the movies (because the running helps manage the movie snack consumption.) Connect with Kaleigh on Twitter, LinkedIn, or read her blog.

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