Savvy leaders understand that attending to the building blocks for working successfully with others requires planning and design, and that planning and design increase the quality of our conversations.
“To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of our culture, which depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations. Everything happens through conversations.”
-Judith E. Glaser
A great tool to enhance the quality of your conversations is the Clarity Checklist you’ll be introduced to below. You can work with this checklist to design, plan, structure, evaluate, and even rescue your important interactions in a manner that drives clarity into the work you are a part of.
The Clarity Checklist includes the following:
- Have you established that shared interests exist?
- Is everyone in the meeting clear about the reason to coordinate?
- Are participants clear as to why they are there and their specific role?
- Has enough time been allowed to explore and brainstorm various ideas and courses of action?
- Have participants had the opportunity to share and air their thoughts?*
- Have the pros and cons of the various options been sufficiently vetted?
- Do participants understand, at some level, the process that was or will be followed to reach a decision?
- If a decision has been made, has it been appropriately solidified with enough specificity that people will know what was actually decided?
- Has the group established the required specificity around the who, what, how, and when details?
- Are accountability and ownership clear?
- Have the resources that will be required to meet decided goals been accounted for?
How to work with the Clarity Checklist:
Plan, design, and structure your conversations. Use this checklist before your important business conversations to design how you want to put an interaction together and the topics you will need to address. The checklist helps you think about which of the building blocks have already been taken care of and which might be missing from the overall interaction or relationship. Consider the elements that might be worth revisiting or spending more time on to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Pro tip: if you don’t yet have answers to all the questions posed by the Clarity Checklist, don’t let that keep you from taking action. You don’t need to personally generate the answers to all of the checklist questions yourself. The point is, as meeting facilitator, project lead, or just someone who cares about pursuing an outcome, your job is not to generate all the answers yourself, but rather to be aware of the need to address these elements as part of a work effort and to have a plan for how that will happen.
Evaluate, steer, and correct your conversations. You can also use the Clarity Checklist midway through an interaction or project to assess how things are going. If they are not progressing as anticipated, use the checklist to identify what might be missing. Running through your checklist on a regular basis will provide clues as to the reasons for a slowdown or impasse, as well as possible solutions for clearing the path forward.
Pro tip: the criticality of a missing building block generally increases proportionately with the significance and/or complexity of the work effort at hand. If the work effort isn’t that complex, a missing element won’t bring the project to a halt.
The Clarity Checklist may appear basic or obvious, and that’s because it is meant to. Even so, it is easy to miss important elements, often to the detriment of the effort at hand. I have seen this happen, time and again, with very capable leaders. Identifying and rectifying gaps in how you have addressed the building blocks for successful work with others increases your ability to influence.
For now, take in the list, try to hook each item on it into an example from your own life, and start to watch for these elements (or their absence) in the conversations going on around you this week. You will find a printable version of the Clarity Checklist here.
In the next Topic, we look at the three types of conversations most common in business and how you can pair them with the Clarity Checklist to address the building blocks for successful collaboration.
*Creating space for the airing of alternative ideas does not mean ceaseless complaining is encouraged. A leadership principle, Disagree and Commit, is based on the belief that allowing for airing of ideas before a decision is made leaves people feeling the process has integrity and their viewpoints have been respected. This principle works when team members feel it is their obligation to agree or disagree openly, and, once a decision is made, commit wholly to it.