The Practice of CLEARity

By Mark McMillan |

My mind thinks and spells the word “clarity” this way. It makes more sense to think of it spelled this way. When you start down the path of coaching people as a profession, the study of clarity is a foundation. So, this blog post isn’t a direct discussion of staffing, per say, but it is a discussion of the underlying human condition. And it’s a discussion of self-leadership [without which nothing happens]. What does it mean to be clear?

Before we delve into nuanced definitions, l am going to assert that clarity is inherently productive. Being clear about something is generally the first step to having it. Of course, there are some people and organizations tend to have accidental strategies. They just do things are see what happens. Then, when the universe produces results, they say, “it’s meant to be.” I am sure that we all know people and organizations that behave like this – but I wouldn’t recommend it as the accomplishment model. So, for the purpose of this post, let’s assume that clarity is a useful tool.

So what does it mean to be clear?

First it means you are connected to what is actually happening around you. It means that you know your financial situation. It means that you know where your products work well. It means that there is an absence of denial. It isn’t characterized by optimistic hoping – which is usually a pre-cursor to something not changing. It also means that you know what is happening with the relationships around you. If I had a nickle for every time one of my clients was not clear about their financial situation then I would have at least $625.05. Much of the time getting clear means facing fear. It requires work. That’s why we avoid it.

Being clear also means that you are connected to what you REALLY want to happen. I don’t know about you, but my “want engine” is a very dynamic piece of machinery. It is like a ticker-tape machine. It is constantly spitting out ideas in the moment based on what I am feeling in that moment. The tape keeps spooling out wants. What happens with us humans is that we get lazy and we stop looking at the tape. We get lazy and we just parrot back what was on the tape a while ago. Or, more commonly, we report what we are SUPPOSED to want. When you stop tuning into that raw, powerful signal, you get off track. The passion drains without you ever realizing it. Now, I am not suggesting that we all get up and do exactly what we want each day. What I am saying is that you need to be connected to all of it. It is productive to pay attention to each data point AND the trend line.

For periods in my life, I have practiced a lot of yoga. Whatever the variety of yoga it involves a series of poses that get repeated each time. Each person has a different relationship to each pose. Some of them seem easy and others seem hard. Each time that you go into each pose it is a different and unique experience. People use the word “practice” to describe their yoga. It is the perfect word for it because each day is different and one never perfects a pose. It is study of what is happening in the moment. Practice means that you are never completely there.

CLARITY is a PRACTICE. Successful people have a structured practice for staying clear. What happens when a CEO is not clear? It doesn’t work very well and it is frustrating for everyone. Cultivating clarity is one of the primary functions of an executive coach. A coach provides the leader with a regular, safe space to tune into the raw signal of the ticker-tape and the raw emotions that it produces. Then we both stare at the data point and the trend line before we figure out what to do next.