People First! with Ann Latham


By Morag Barrett

Ann Latham is known as the Queen of Clarity. Ann is the founder of the US-based consulting firm Uncommon Clarity, and her clients come from more than 40 industries and range from organizations such as Boeing, Hitachi, and Medtronic, to nonprofits such as the Public Broadcasting Service, and United Way, as well as various colleges and universities. Ann has been widely quoted and her advice has appeared in publications such as the "New York Times,”  "Bloomberg," and "Management Today." She's also an expert blogger for Forbes.com and speaks frequently to audiences around the world. She’s the author of several books, and her newest book, “The Power of Clarity,” is all about how to find clarity in our organizations and lives, and then how to harness that clarity to achieve outstanding results.

Back to Basics
For somebody known as the Queen of Clarity, you’d think that Ann would have known her purpose or goals from a young age, right? However, Ann shared with us that in fact, she had no idea what she really wanted to do or be until she was fifty years old! Around that time, she was working in a corporate job and asked her co-workers the question: “What do I do exceptionally well that is most unusual?” Their answers all pointed to Ann’s remarkable ability to see a complex, seemingly massive problem, identify patterns, and get right to the heart of what needs to be done to solve the issue. This set her on a journey of becoming a consultant, researching, writing and blogging, and really helping organizations of all types move forward through their problems one step at a time.

Getting Clear on Clarity
However, clarity is a concept that so many of us get wrong when it comes to defining it, understanding it, and knowing what our problems are and how to solve them. This is where Ann says she comes in, ready to help. She says that so many of us think that we are just a smidgen off the path of clarity, but in reality, most of us imagine we are being clear when really, we are not making ourselves clear enough to those around us.

The Cost of Disclarity
The cost of this dis-clarity can be massive. Ann shares that not only does operating in disclarity have negative effects on productivity, it also can have negative effects on a person’s credibility, cause frustration and lost morale, and even damage relationships. Ann gives the example of work meetings. So often, meetings are highly inefficient and take way too long. Updates are given that don’t have real impacts or aren’t really necessary, and Ann says that the biggest problem is that people start meetings without knowing what they want to be different when the meeting is done. That’s where learning how to be more clear comes into play.

How to Get More Clear
Throughout her career, Ann has learned a lot about getting more clear–and I am so glad she’s sharing this knowledge with us in her new book. She was gracious enough to give us a few pointers in our conversation today. First, we have to be specific about our wants and needs when we make requests to others in our organization. Second, we need to go through the process of clarity. This means working towards a goal in a series of intermediate steps that eventually get you to your ultimate goal. Finally, you need focus. To get more clarity, we need to cut out distractions, get all the resources we need to achieve our goals, and then continually ask ourselves the question, “What needs to be different when I’m done?” Knowing what outcome we’re working towards in the next 5 minutes, before lunchtime, by the end of the week, next month, or next year can help us get clear on what we want and how to do it in the most efficient way possible. 

Want to learn more about how to seek and find clarity in your organization? Click the links below to catch our chat.

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