The Entrepreneurial Operating System® is just that, an operating system. It’s a complete package for running your business. But, like most operating systems (looking at you Windows) it has a few features that a lot of users don’t take the time to explore. Much like being able to switch to “dark theme” on Windows 10, the Clarity Break™ is one of the tools from the EOS Toolbox™ that people tend to look past.
It’s understandable, really. During the EOS® journey a leadership team is expected to accomplish some truly amazing things. From establishing core values to creating an EOS Scorecard™ and finally making progress on quarterly goals, there is no shortage of challenges along the road. And, when compared with something like the EOS Level 10 Meeting™, the Clarity Break may seem a bit important. But, looks can be deceiving.
The truth is that the EOS Clarity Break is an incredibly valuable and unique tool in your leadership toolbox. It may not have all the bells and whistles of a Level 10 Meeting, but it’s just as critical in advancing your business.
During a Clarity Break, EOS challenges you to work “on” instead of “in” your business for about an hour. You take a pen and paper and sit somewhere quiet. Then you jot down the ideas, challenges, or strategic questions that are rattling around in your head. Or, you think about how the business is operating and how it might operate differently.
The advantages of this are plentiful and obvious for leaders who really dedicate themselves to this time. One less obvious advantage though, is the amount of self-honesty that comes out of the Clarity Break.
Why is that so important?
The Danger Of Lying To Yourself
I don’t think for a second that anyone in any position considers it a good idea to lie to yourself. Unless you’re literally fighting for your life and need to convince yourself there is a chance you’ll survive, lying to yourself is one of those universally unwise things to do.
For that reason alone I considered not doing this section, but I think reminding ourselves of the consequences of this kind of behavior is a good way to remind ourselves to be on the look out for it. No matter how much we “know” it’s bad for us, self-deception is remarkably easy and common. We all know it’s bad, but we almost all do it.
Self deception in any context is a one way ticket to failure. If you refuse to acknowledge the challenges ahead of you, you will almost always fail to overcome them. When you lie to yourself in business, though, the consequences are even worse. Some quick examples:
- Refusing to acknowledge that a new product was a bad idea
- that a marketing strategy has failed
- that an employee isn’t working out
These are just the first three examples I could think of. But, there are nearly infinite opportunities to self-deceive when you’re in a leadership position at work.
It’s part of our nature to refuse to see these failures, because it’s part of our nature to want to stick to our guns. It’s the fallacy of sunk cost at a corporate level. But, unlike a gambler dropping a few extra dollars down the drain, refusing to acknowledge problems in a business can sink an entire company and put the financial security of every person there at risk.
Hence the need for a Clarity Break.
Using The Clarity Break To Improve Self-Honesty
As I mentioned, the EOS Clarity Break is a fairly simple practice. You take an hour out of your week to find a quiet spot and think about the questions surrounding your business. Some people might feel skeptical of taking an hour away, feeling like it isn’t work. But, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I can say with a straight face that this will be the most productive hour of your week.
Whatever your role is in your business, from CEO to janitor, taking a bit of time to consider how you could improve on what you do is powerful. Too often we get sucked into the hustle and bustle of actually doing things, and we lose sight of a) the reason we were doing them to begin with and b) what else we could be doing.
Taking that hour gives your mind the space to analyze and consider your business as an objective observer. If you’re taking Clarity Breaks, the first thing you’re going to notice is that you are going to be second guessing yourself and your business quite a bit. That’s an uncomfortable and intimidating thing to have to do, but its value can’t be understated.
Sure, any business that is constantly backtracking its plans is going to stall out. But by the same token, a leader should stop to ask if their plans are working. If they don’t they are just blindly pushing forward, not really knowing if they are still on the right path.
Maintaining this level of self-honesty without becoming wishy-washy about your commitments can be a difficult balancing act. But, if you start by asking yourself to just be honest about the three topics listed below, you’ll find your balance soon enough.
1: Long Term Goals
The first thing I encourage people to think about during their Clarity Break is their long term goals. If your team is already running on the Entrepreneurial Operating System, you should already be regularly doing this during the Level 10 Meeting. Ideally, your team is being honest with each other and themselves about progress towards their quarterly goals and, as a result, the annual goals of the company.
However, taking time to do this alone is valuable in a different way. Far from the pressure of the meeting you get the chance to ask two very important questions:
- Is the progress being reported really enough to achieve the long term goals?
- Are the long term goals for this team still the same?
Convincing yourself enough is getting done to achieve a goal is an easy trap to fall into. This is especially true in the beginning of your EOS journey. Regularly asking yourself to confront the truth of that matter gives you the power to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that you hit your goals.
Remember, this question isn’t asked under the pretense of your team members lying to you about achieving their goals. Rather, it’s a moment of zero-pressure honesty in which you ask yourself if you think the project or goal is on track. If you are anything less than 100% sure it is, it’s time to have the conversation around why.
You should also ask yourself if these long term goals are still the ones that best serve the team. Mind you, you don’t want to change your annual goal every three weeks. That isn’t being honest. That’s being indecisive or distracted. But, an honest look at the strategic value of a major project always has value. If something big has shifted in your company, your goals may need to change. And, if you never stop to ask yourself if these goals still serve you, you may be so caught up in completing them that you are blind to their decreased value.
Separate from your long term goals are the current priorities in your day. There are all manner of reasons for being dishonest with yourself about priorities, but the main one is usually that the more important task is the one we are less comfortable attempting.
Take a moment during your Clarity Break to ask yourself what you are making a priority these days. Then, ask yourself if that is really what you should be focusing on, or if there is something else that you’ve been avoiding or simply not thought about.
3: Gut Feelings
If something feels wrong, it usually warrants further consideration. When you’re running a business, the numbers are what feels important. You are constantly inundated with data and metrics and all manner of information with which you can make decisions.
But, sometimes you just have a gut feeling. I encourage you to listen to that during your Clarity Break. There are no numbers there to bother you and no outside voices to stifle the internal one. Ask yourself what it is that feels wrong about whatever is bothering you and chase that rabbit down its hole. You may be very surprised what you find.
Meet the Founder
Jeff Whittle founded and launched Whittle & Partners in 2011. Before that, Jeff practiced law in Dallas for 15 years and has an additional 20 years of executive business experience. He has run businesses ranging from startups to 300-employee operations.