Five Strategic Ways Leaders Provide Clarity (Mark Miller)

Winning Well Connection

We’ve always been big fans of Mark Miller and his prolific writing. What makes Mark unique from many leadership authors is that he’s actively working as a corporate executive while staying committed to inspiring leaders through his writing. 

Click on the image to purchase Mark’s book.

Engagement in leadership is vital. However, as you go through your career it changes.

That realization came to light when someone recently asked me a question I had never really considered: Does engagement look different as a leader moves through his or her career?

Although the core drivers of engagement are largely universal, I think the question itself could point to an insight.

Over the course of a career, a leader’s primary focus often shifts.

Preparation – Early in your career, you may spend more time and energy focused on learning. You may not know enough in the beginning to add real value. This phase could include learning about your chosen field, your role, the skills needed to excel, the industry, etc.

Production – During the next phase, as you learn and grow, you should be able to produce more. If you are in sales, you should close more sales; if you are an engineer, the scope and complexity of the problems you tackle should increase. As a leader, you should become more proficient at helping your team accomplish their goal.

Reproduction – Finally, as you mature, leaders often experience one more shift; you could easily find yourself investing more time and energy in future leaders. This could be teaching, coaching, mentoring younger leaders, or even representing the organization in various settings. Emerging leaders gain huge advantage when you provide historical context and perspective.

I now feel the need to state the obvious: I believe our careers rarely fit so neatly into these phases. We can, and do, move in and out of these different stages throughout our careers.

However, if you are finding it difficult to engage in your current role, consider your stage of career. Perhaps the answer is right in front of you … Prepare, Produce or Reproduce. Adjust your focus as needed and stay engaged!

Judging Your Engagement

As we discussed just above, one’s engagement phase ebbs and flows throughout a career. Regardless of the stage you’re in, you’re on the right track.

Men and women who are fully engaged outperform those who are merely going through the motions. This may be the most staggering revelation of common sense to anyone who leads people.

However, this obvious reality also occupies many waking hours for leaders around the world. Though there is no single, miraculous tactic to permanently lift the engagement of people, an engaged follower base always begins with an engaged leader.

Here’s a good starting point to judge your level of engagement, no matter the phase you’re in:

An engaged leader provides clarity.

The engaged leader sees and senses ambiguity. He or she is close enough to the work and the people to know when an infusion of clarity is needed – which is daily!

Clarity may be the greatest gift a leader can give an organization.

You may be thinking: “Clarity around what?” As much as possible!

All high-performance organizations have staggering levels of alignment. Alignment is impossible without clarity.

Here are five candidates for clarity:

  1. Purpose – Does EVERYONE in your organization know WHY you exist?
  2. Mission – Does EVERYONE in your organization know WHAT you are trying to accomplish?
  3. Values – Does EVERYONE in your organization know the beliefs that should guide their behavior?
  4. Goals – Does EVERYONE in your organization know what a win looks like?
  5. Strategies – Does EVERYONE in your organization know how you plan to win?

Obviously, once an organization reaches any scale, a single leader cannot carry the mantle of clarity single-handedly. Engaged leaders create the expectation and the infrastructure to cascade clarity.

Clarity which resides only in the heart and mind of the leader is merely a figment of the imagination.

Clarity must reach the front lines – that’s where the real power resides.

Is your organization clear on what matters most?

Winning Well Reflection

In our experience with thousands of leaders and managers around the world, the number one cause of workplace relationship problems is expectation violations. In other words: people simply aren’t on the same page. Mark’s suggestion that clarity the greatest gift you can give your people cannot be overstated. A strong focus on results where everyone knows exactly what winning looks like is vital to your success.

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6 Steps To Loving The Job You Hate

Many readers write to me and disclose, “I hate my job.”

You’ve gone from skipping to work, to dragging your butt. Little annoyances mushroom in the dung of frustration. Reasons vary: a witchy boss, unrealistic expectations, downsizing pressures, stagnating gifts, unrecognized contributions.

You’ve considered quitting, but that’s a bold move and another post.

I’ve made a career out of re-engineering my own jobs. There’s joy-packed potential all around you. Energizing possibilities abound. Grab the happiness that lurks in your day job.

Reinvent before quitting.

6 Steps to Loving the Job You Hate

  1. Name your frustration – Write down what’s really ticking you off. The big and the small stuff. Use as much paper as needed, and get it all out. Then step away.
  2. Pick the biggies – Find a big red pen and cross off the annoyances. Every job has crap like that.  Shake those off.  Determine the one or two game-changers. Focus your energy on addressing those concerns. You know what must be done. Listen to your heart. If you weren’t scared, where would you start? Talk to a mentor or coach, and make a plan. You are powerful. Use your power to change your scenery.
  3. Collect joy – Remember what you love. Negative feelings overshadow joy. Notice what makes you truly happy at work. Certain tasks? Interactions? Challenges? Write those down too.
  4. Forget humility – Write down your best talents. Not just the “work appropriate” ones. One of my leaders has an amazing rock band. I love to sing. You’d be surprised how many opportunities you can find to sing “at work.” Sure, in the long-run, confident humility is vital. But you’ve got to acknowledge you gifts to have the courage to use them.
  5. Create the job you want – Bring your passion to your job. My deep desire is growing leaders. My job description says I’ve been in sales, marketing, customer service, outsourcing… Not one of these job descriptions says “design and deliver unique leadership development programs for your team.” Or, “mentor anyone that asks for help.” Or, “spend your weekends writing an International blog to let your team in your head.” By investing deeply in those aspects of the job, I get through yawner finance meetings just fine.
  6. Look for special projects – Before our leadership summit, a frontline leader asked if he could take a few pics and video throughout the 2 day meeting. Yesterday, my entire organization received a fully professional video that lit us all up. It was an amazing investment of personal time and energy. He took it upon himself to leverage his gifts to bring more joy beyond his role. Skipping to work, turns heads.

How have you found more joy in your work? How could you?

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