Cara Macklin both a Leadership Coach and Business Leader, combines her hands on business experience previously as a director of the award winning Macklin Care Home Group, Malone Lodge Hotel and NI’s first Lifestyle Care Home with her professional coach training. As founder of Cara Macklin Coach she helps successful leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit go from good to great through developing themselves, their team and ultimately grow their business

In this article, Cara talks about her views …
One of the key challenges business leaders face today is lack of clarity, with more complexities in the business environment than ever. It sounds so simple to have clarity on where your going and how you’ll get there. Yet time and time again I’m coaching business leaders on gaining clarity on what they want to achieve, how they will get there and supporting and challenging them to communicate this and ultimately deliver their goals. An entrepreneur who has so many ideas they don’t know where to start, a leader scaling a business has so many things coming at them they don’t have a clear plan on how they’ll get there.

With Brexit just around the corner, to say it’s as clear as mud is an understatement. When asked about the dreaded B word, my response focuses on the lack of clarity for business leaders and how that paralyses people’s decision making, and ultimately progress in business. When the mind is confused at all, it just says no. My experience is people don’t want to look stupid, so they just put it out of their mind. Throughout history, business leaders have survived the worst economic conditions and business challenges. But what they can’t cope with is lack of clarity. Now I wish I could give you the answer how to solve the lack of clarity around Brexit. But unfortunately, I can’t.

However, through my own business experience and coaching other leaders I witness regularly a lack of clarity within leaders and inside organisations. My own mistakes and learnings along with lessons from other leaders has highlighted some key factors to ensure clarity in a business.

Leadership clarity
It’s understandable with so much happening in the business environment, often referred to as VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous and an ever-increasing number of challenges to deal with that leaders don’t always have complete clarity themselves. However, this prevents effective decision making, clarity of thought and ultimately hinders the leader’s performance and growth potential for the organisation. Napoleon Hill author of Think and Grow Rich outlines indecision as one of the key factors that inhibits success. First and foremost, it’s essential the leader has total clarity in their own mind, before communicating with the team.

Clear vision and plan
Often companies have a clear vision but haven’t communicated this effectively to everyone throughout the organisation. Or maybe they know where they are going but haven’t put the time and effort in to creating an effective plan on how they will get there. Without this people find it difficult to take the next step to achieving the overall vision. Research has shown projects often fail, and one of the key factors is they under communication by a ratio of 1 to 10. So detailed communication plans, using simple language involving all the key stakeholders is crucial.

Clear communication
Communication is an area that causes challenges in every organisation. I always explain to people, what I say and what you hear are two different things. People make the mistake of using language that is too vague, over complicated or industry or specialised language, say too much or try to get across too many things in one go. Effective communication needs to be simple and short, language that anyone can understand, and unless you’re with an industry expert avoid acronyms or specialised language. No one likes to be made feel stupid just because they haven’t heard of a specific word.

Clarity of expectation
With your staff, customers and suppliers this is crucial at the beginning when working together. Often, I witness things go wrong when further down the line it’s evident both parties have a different expectation of what was to be delivered, and this wasn’t clarified at the beginning. Spending the time and detail at the beginning will pay dividends to deliver your goals. People have different expectations of certain language. One that I love, and it’s a whole other blog is “but sure it’s common sense” to know what to do. My analogy is it’s only common to you. But that debate is for another day. Also, I advise people at the end of a meeting or conversation each to summarise the key aspects of what was discussed or actions to be taken. This saves huge confusion and a lot of time in the future.

The real experts can explain it with a pen and paper to an 8-year old
Many years ago, a very wise mentor said to me, “Cara no matter who you meet in business whether they have legal, finance, medical or IT background for example. If they can’t explain it to you in simple terms with a pen and a piece of paper, they don’t understand it themselves.” I have taken this advice throughout my career, and it has supported me in many situations. Experts can use technical language with their peers, but the top leaders can explain anything in simple language whether it’s a new product, concept or industry terminology.