Describe the Color Green

Teams are made up of humans. As a leader, one of our jobs is to engage and grow people where they are, while allowing them to keep their unique humanity. This means we need to learn to communicate with a diverse group of individuals, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. To do this successfully, leaders need to focus on clarity and expectations.

In my roles as a leader and a coach, I often hear people describe times when they gave their all to a project or task, but their leader told them they did it wrong or that it didn’t meet the expectation. While I recognize that sometimes this comes from a place of misunderstanding, it can often be a lack of clarity on our part as leaders.

I call this back and forth…”Describe the Color Green” and it goes something like this:

Boss – Your assignment is to describe the color green.
Team Member – <Describes the color green>
Boss – No no no. That’s not the right answer. I want you to describe the color green.
Team Member – <Tries again to describe the color green>
Boss – I don’t think you are getting it. I want you to describe the color green in another way.
Team Member – <Gives it another go using different images and descriptive words>
Boss – I really don’t think you are cut out for this work.

Clarity is about setting expectations and communicating them in a way that your team can understand. This means using detail and dialogue to help people understand what you’re looking for. When you’re clear and concise in your communication, it builds trust between team members and you (as their leader) because everyone knows what is expected of them.

Boss – Your assignment is to describe the color green.
Team member – <describes the color green using clothing samples>
Boss – Oh, I see what you did there. Interesting Could you expand on the color green using nature?
Team member, <describes the color green using nature including examples and textures>
Boss – Yes, I might have forgotten some of the textures. Nice work!

Earth Sanctuary, Whidbey Island : So many shades of green!

Recognizing and being open to differences of culture, language, and creativity is critical to ensuring that clarity exists in each assignment. What we often see is that across time, leaders and team members grow in their understanding of one another and these back and forth conversations can be shortened and the team member can even begin to add their own creative flavor with good outcome.

As clarity grows, teach your more junior team members to ask more questions when you give them the assignment to ensure understanding and comprehension of the goals. Always remember that you are building the next group of leaders and need to show them what good leadership looks like.

Boss – Your assignment is to describe the color blue
Team member – <describes blue using nature, texture, and adds some blue from the art world>
Boss – Excellent! Thank you!

Be yourself. Describe what needs doing. Let others be themselves. Always seek to build trust and understanding through finding common ground with clarity and well-defined expectations.

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