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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Archive: A Reputation for Clarity — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Archive: A Reputation for Clarity — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

May 2nd, 2014

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Read and listen to the first column in this series, Cultivating Your Career Reputations.

Many a project and sometimes even an entire company has failed due to one, small, yet amazingly important trait — clarity. When companies can’t make a clear case for their product or service over another — or when management can’t communicate its vision and desires to staff — or when you can’t tell your loved ones what is really important to you — it becomes terribly clear how important clarity is to all aspects of your life. You can be the smartest, quickest, most skilled worker in the world, but if you can’t communicate clearly to those around you, your chances for success are critically hampered.

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I am sure you have examples from you own life, where lack of clarity has harmed you. The boss who would tell you the goal was A, when everyone around you was saying it was B. The dreaded editor who thinks something is missing in your writing, but can’t tell you what. The spouse who complains about you not doing the dishes when the real issue is quite different. Remember how you felt when you faced situations like that? Why would you ever want to do that to someone else? When you don’t communicate clearly, everyone around you – including you – suffers.

In the worst cases, people who cannot communicate clearly resort to what I call the “mindreader” method. They never tell you exactly what they want, but expect everyone around them to know . You are then forced to suffer through endless rounds of guessing — being praised when you are right and punished when you are wrong — slowly defining the person’s goals through trial and error. Of course, it should seem obvious how inefficient and demoralizing this type of behavior can be. Projects take 3-4 times as long to accomplish, stress levels rise and those who don’t play the game well can be hopelessly confused about their role and goals in the project. You only have to imagine how much more effective everyone could be to understand the need for clarity.

Sometimes, though, those around you will think they are being clear, but their use of language leaves you just as adrift as the previous example. Clarity, whether in writing or spoken conversation, does not come from words and phrases like ‘maybe’, ‘I think…’ or ‘perhaps’. Instead of communicating clearly, some people seem to be having their own internal discussions while talking with others. Should I do this or that? Would this be better or that? Who should work on this, Bob or Susie?

While it is very important for all of us to have internal discussions while preparing a new project or presentation, airing them in front of others confuses them and often bores them, as well. Know the difference between figuring out something for yourself and communicating your thoughts and clear needs to others. Sure, you can have meetings where such things are discussed, but when the time comes to communicate your goals and actions to others, you must be direct and to the point.

The fact is, you can very easily see when you are communicating effectively and when you are not. If your orders and vision are being carried out, good for you. If not, maybe you need to be a bit more aware of how you are communicating. Do people return again and again for clarification? Do they do the opposite of what you truly wanted? Even worse, do they simply do nothing? I can guarantee that they aren’t doing this because they are stupid. It is almost assured that a lack of clarity lies at the heart of most of these situations. As with most issues, you often need to look at your own issues first to see the most basic problems.

Are you communicating clearly with everyone around you? Are you being productive and effective? If not, developing better communication skills could be an important way to improve your work and life. Developing a reputation for clarity will attract people to you and allow them to find their own success. When you communicate clearly, you make it easier for everyone around you to succeed. If you don’t communicate clearly, you are crippling your own career and the careers of those around you. Together you will always be floundering from one day to the next, unable to understand each other and unable to address the goals that define your career.

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