Commitments: The Pursuit of Clarity

The power of clear thoughts, words and writing.  As a marketer,  I have built my life’s work about making words (amongst other things) work to drive a purchase or a response.  That said, almost every day I feel as if I learn about how to make my words more effective.  Much of this learning comes through the pursuit of clarity.  In every facet of my life, clarity is critical and difficult to achieve.  As a constant learner, I feel like it is something at which the learning will never end.

In marketing:  Often times when we are working hard so create the most effective marketing, we miss the obvious.  You can get too close to the work, review the copy too many times, overthink the headline, or forget to look at the marketing exection with your customer in mind.  Just this week, I was looking at an email campaig where we were trying to be too cute with a headline, and it just wasn’t clear.  A lack of clarity is often driven by not stepping back and looking at your work with fresh eyes.

In leadership:  My most difficult work experiences have been times where I wasn’t being clear to my employees.  The worst of these has typically been whe an employee is underperforming, and I needed to let them go.  This is never a situation you want to find yourself in, as either a leader or employee, but it happens.  The first time I had to do this, I thought I had been explicitly clear with the employee both verbally and in writing of the gaps in their performance.  The day came that I was going to fire them.  They were shocked, angry and sad.  Angry and sad were to be expected, but SHOCKED?!?  We had been having conversations for going on six months about their lack of performace.  I was taken aback, and decided to just ask why they felt so surprised.  Verbatim…”You never told me that wasn’t doing what you wanted me to.  Isn’t that unfair?”  Ugh.  Despite my best attempts, and even a belief that been clear, I hadn’t.  A lack of clarity is often driven by not confirming that what you think you said was heard.

In being a mom:  The power of words.  In no place in my life is this more apparent than with my two year old Matthew (and prior to him, Katharine).  Matthew is learning words everyday, and it is so refreshing to be able to communicate with him.  Only a short 3 months ago, he was getting frustrated all the time because despite what he was thinking, he couldn’t form the words to tell us what he wanted.  Now, the smille on his face when he tells a little joke, or can tell us he loves us.  Priceless.  A lack of clarity is often driven by not understading each other.

In being a wife:  In my life, everything seems to be planned.  So, a moment without a plan typically means something is wrong (unfortunately!).  One morning as I was running out of the house to work, I yelled back to my husband, “You are picking up the kids from school, right?”  To which he responded with, “I can’t, I have an appointment.”  Unfortunately, I didn’t hear him.  I had asked a question without listening for the answer, and thus our kids were awaiting a pick up at daycare with no parent headed that direction.  After a few calls from the teacher, we got it figured out.  But, a lack of clarity is often driven by not listening.  Particularly detrimental if you were the one who asked the question to gain clarity (and when your kids end up stuck at daycare!).

So, the pursuit of clarity is my commitment for the week.  In the way that I communicate and in the way those around me commuicate with me.

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