Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Getting Clarity

I was surprised and appreciative (and a little flattered) when I received a call from the executive director of a non-profit organization in another city inviting me to serve as the master of ceremonies at a dinner they were sponsoring to honor a long-time friend.  The dinner was a fund-raiser for an organization with a worthwhile mission and my friend certainly deserved the recognition.  I thought this would be fun.   I would tell a couple of stories about my friend, introduce some folks, and enjoy the fellowship.
When a letter asking me to buy tickets for the event arrived, I responded and then made hotel reservations for the weekend.  As the time drew closer for the dinner, I did not hear anything from the organization about the program.  A week before the scheduled dinner, I called and left a message for the executive director.  When she called back, she said, “Well, I did not hear anything back from you, so I invited someone else to do it.”  I was angry and a little embarrassed.  I am sure that she could tell that I was not happy, so I broke off the conversation as quickly as possible.  My wife urged me to go anyway, but I was too frustrated and did not want to ruin my friend’s recognition.

I learned later that I had completely misinterpreted what the executive director was asking of me.  As I heard about the dinner after the fact, I found out that what she wanted was not a person to preside, but someone to plan the program, invite those who would speak, and come up with a printed program for the evening.  We had failed to communicate about our relative expectations of what a “master of ceremonies” would do.  There was a lack of clarity in our conversation.  In reality, I probably was not the best person to do what she needed done.

I share this story because it reminds me how often we fail to get a clear picture of where we are going and what is expected of us.  Even when we use the same words in conversation with others, we may mean different things.  In coaching, I often find myself pushing a client to articulate more clearly and specifically where they are going and how they intend to get there. Clarity is important.

My friend Gary Wood teaches an approach to coaching that he calls The Clarity Model.  His point is that we cannot achieve anything if we don’t clearly understand where we are going and the things that help or hinder us in getting there.  I recommend Gary’s training not only because it is a good model but because I see how often we fail to have a clear picture of what we hope to achieve.  Getting clarity cannot only save one embarrassment and frustration but can result in significant life changes.

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