Book of the Month Review: “Clarity First” by Karen Martin
When our team began thinking through the content and monthly themes we’d like to cover in 2019, clarity felt like the perfect place to start. Organizations need clarity to thrive: We need to have a clear understanding of our mission and our purpose; we must have role clarity so we know what part we play in contributing to our mission and in achieving our objectives; and we have to have a clear picture of the organization’s vision, strategic goals and processes.
While teams demand clarity to be successful, establishing clarity in an organization doesn’t come easily. And I’d be remiss not to say that Leadercast is no exception to that fact. While our hearts and efforts are focused on leadership, we still face the same challenges and obstacles as any organization. Training our clarity skills as a company requires constant, conscious efforts and communication between our leadership team, our staff and our community of leaders.
When we decided on clarity as our theme for January, I was thrilled when I stumbled upon Clarity First: How Smart Leader and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance (now our Leadercast Book of the Month!) by business performance improvement and lean management expert Karen Martin. In it, Karen provides actionable ways leaders can establish and improve clarity within their organizations and for themselves.
The book begins with a simple definition of clarity: “the quality of being easily and accurately understood.” But clarity within organizations is much more complex, says Karen, noting that companies fall into three types: clarity pursuers, clarity avoiders and the clarity blind.
At Leadercast, we strive to be clarity pursuers because it is a quality we value on a daily basis. We want to be an organization that’s clear in its mission, messaging and values—and, according to the book, that’s the secret sauce to being successful in achieving clarity as an organization. You have to want to bring clarity into your work and among your team culture, otherwise it won’t be top of mind and you’ll set yourself up to fail. You have to want to make clarity a priority for yourself, your team and your organization.
Karen sections the book into five Ps of clarity: Clarity of Purpose, Clarity of Priorities, Clarity of Process, Clarity of Performance and Clarity of Problem Solving. Throughout each chapter, she provides practical ways organizations can improve their clarity in these areas. Reading through each section, I was encouraged to realize that my company is doing many of the things we should be doing to be a clarity-first organization: We are very clear on our mission (providing content, education and tools for people to improve their leadership) and our purpose (filling the world with leaders worth following); our leadership team set clear KPIs (key performance indicators) to guide our year; and we are fine-tuning our processes companywide to make work easier for ourselves and for our clients. But there’s a lot more we can be doing to grow in these five areas of clarity, and the information provided in this book will help us get there.
Clarity First ends with a focus on you, the leader, and a call for committing to clarity. Karen notes that organizational clarity cannot exist without personal clarity. She applies the same concepts she mentions throughout the book for organizations to individuals: Are you a clarity pursuer, a clarity avoider or are you clarity blind as a leader? Karen also explains how to be clear in your thought process, in the words you use and the questions you ask, and in your actions.
I highly recommend this book for leaders no matter where you fall on the totem pole in your organization. It’s an easy, digestible read because Karen provides charts and tables to illustrate many of her points. Read the book to take a next step in your journey for clarity as a leader. And if you’re curious to know how you rate in your clarity prowess, take the online Clarity First quiz!
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