Clarity & Directness: Your Secrets to Leading with Power and Influence

Being straightforward seems like an easy concept.

But just because something isn’t complicated doesn’t mean it’s easy. Most managers/leaders could use some help in the clarity & directness department.

Take a moment to complete the following exercise. See how you can sharpen your clarity and directness to amp up your executive presence, management effectiveness, and overall communication skills.


Step 1

Conduct a Clarity Audit—and Challenge Your Results
To determine just how clear you are, draw a horizontal line, marking 1 at the start and 10 at the end. Write “not at all” over the 1 and “extremely” over the 10.

List key tasks, such as delegating, planning, communicating. Rate yourself for clarity, asking:

  • “When I delegate, am I clear about expectations?
  • “When I address people issues, am I straightforward, or do I avoid sensitive subjects?
  • “When I share the big picture with my team, do I clearly communicate tasks and timelines?”

Step 2

Design an Action Plan Based on Your Clarity Score
Look critically at your completed clarity audit. If you scored a 10 on any item, ask a team member or your boss to verify your ranking. Few leaders are clear about what they want, expect, or desire, making it tough to achieve a perfect ranking. If you are positive your 10 is accurate, good for you! Ideally, after completing Step 3, you’ll be able to teach others how to achieve such outstanding results.

For any score below 10, list one step for improvement. For example, you may be clear when delegating tasks, but perhaps you need to set measurable deadlines. Or maybe you clearly communicate the big picture, but you fail to outline precisely how your team can move the vision forward.

For each score under 10, commit to taking one small action step to up your clarity score this month.

Step 3

Conduct a Directness Audit—and Review Your Most Challenging Areas
Now it’s time to see how direct you are. Repeat the Step 1 process, listing three or four key areas and ranking yourself. For number 1, write “not effective”; for 10, “extremely effective.”

When it comes to directness, the challenge managers/leaders face is being perceived as aggressive, blunt, or tactless—hence ineffective. It takes work to succeed at direct communication.

If you are naturally indirect, you may gravitate toward vague instructions that lead to mishaps. If you are overly direct or prescriptive, you may come across as dictatorial.

Step 4

Develop a Directness Action Plan
After identifying opportunities to be more direct, map out an action plan. For example, if you find it hard to be direct about performance issues, practice addressing core issues at the start of meetings.

If an employee consistently makes excuses for missing deadlines, say, “The last three times I asked for a specific result at an agreed-upon time, you didn’t follow through.” When you use supporting facts, it is easier to be direct.

For each key area, list a strategy to improve your management/leadership skills. If you are just warming up to being more direct, start by applying directness strategies to positive situations. For example, offer unsolicited positive feedback when someone delivers the goods.

If you tend to be too direct (bordering on blunt), practice starting a conversation with an open-ended question. Begin sentences with “what,” “when,” “where,” or “how” to avoid leading the conversation. Asking “How can I help you be more effective?” is preferable to “Here is what you are doing wrong.”

It may take time to fine-tune these skills, but the more you practice, the more effective you will be. Remember…

Maximizing your clarity & directness minimizes confusion, frustration, and stress.