Everyone I run into today, and I mean EVERYONE, keeps asking me “did you get contacts?” I simply reply “no.” But then I find myself forced to recount, for what feels like the millionth time, how I left my glasses at my brother and sister in law’s house in San Antonio, Texas…like an idiot. Then the follow-up question from every person I encounter is, “so, can you see?” I then get to explain how my farsightedness is pretty minor. The glasses that I wear everyday are not because I am legally blind without them. I wear them because they help me see things better from far away and honestly provide clarity to my overall vision. I then “comedically” try to assure everyone that asks me, that they are not in danger when I drive. Hahaha….blah.
These repetitive conversations are becoming exhausting and it’s not even noon yet. If people aren’t asking me these same two questions then they are pointing out how, “you look SO different without your glasses,” which feels like their nicer version of, “WOW – you are even more unattractive without your glasses…you need to get them back ASAP.”
I really do feel like an idiot for having left my glasses at my family’s home. I was loading the car with mine and my wife’s luggage but it was raining outside. I was quickly taking loads to the car, from the house. After a trip or two, I decided to remove my glasses until I finished packing the car and we were ready to leave. Again, it's not as if I am unable to see without my glasses so as I was finishing packing the car and we hurriedly got into the vehicle to leave, I failed to remember to put them back on. We got into the car, pulled out of the driveway, and the glasses were left. About fifteen minutes into the trip home, I realized my mistake.
The main issue was that I did not have a key to my family’s house. They all had already left for work that morning. I told them we didn’t need a key and that I would just close the garage while doing the acrobatic/spy/ninja maneuver over the beam. This would ensure that their home was safely locked up and I didn’t have to waste my time, driving out of my way to their work in order to return their key before I headed home. The only problem was that I left my glasses in their home without a way to enter back in.
Sure, I could have turned the car around, headed back toward San Antonio, gone to their workplace, borrowed a key, drove back to their home, retrieved my eyewear, drove back to their workplace, returned the key, and then headed home. But the reality was that I was scheduled to see them again in just two weekends from that date. I figured that I could easily make it two weeks without my glasses and get them back at that time. In that moment, I acknowledged that I’m far lazier than I am in need of my glasses. So I decided to live without the glasses for two weeks. No big deal…or so I initially thought.
It turns out that these past few days have been a struggle without my glasses. I didn’t realize just how much I relied on them. It is true that I am not blind without them. But I never noticed how much they help me focus when I have them. I was unaware of how much clarity they bring when I am working at a computer, driving a car, concentrating on a book, and so forth. I never realized how much I squint and struggle to do most of the things that I do, when I don’t have my glasses. I now know that the squinting and subtle extra work that I do to try and see more clearly creates more problems. I have had a headache almost every day, all day, since I haven’t had my glasses. At this point, I honestly cannot wait to get them back and am tempted to have my family mail them back to me…except that I am probably cheaper than I am lazy.
In all of this reflection on the importance of my glasses, I cannot help but relate it to a more general concept of leadership. As I have pondered the need for clarity in my vision, I equally recognize the need for clarity within an organization. I know that this is true within the organization(s) that I am a part of. I recognize that this is also true with the thousands of organizations that I have encountered over the years.
Let’s take communication within an organization for example. The staff members within an organization excel when there is clarity in communication. It’s undeniable. Think about how much easier it is to focus your efforts when there is clarity in your job description. Think about how there are fewer problems to deal with and how there are fewer figurative or literal headaches when the goals for your job are clear. What would happen if you had a very clear mission statement for your department that you could point every effort toward? Would this not bring clarity to your day-to-day tasks, the way that you try to inspire your team, the dreams that you come up with and try to work toward? When there is clarity in communication, people know what their responsibilities are and how they can better work together as a team in order to achieve success.
So let’s get personal. There are a lot of things in my organization that I cannot control. The things that I think need clarity may either fall outside of my departments’ jurisdiction or I may simply not be at a higher level of leadership in my organization that is necessary to make positive change on those things. But the truth is that there are policies and procedures that I am a part of and that I do control that can be improved upon. So let’s think about it and again, let’s make it personal. What are areas or details within my organization and specifically my department that need more clarity? What details can I concentrate on in order to implement positive change rather than being someone who only complains about what needs to improve? Instead of gossiping, how can I take steps toward providing clarity to things that need to be better? It is possible to lead well, even though I may not technically be in charge.