Clarity Breaks

Every Friday, I start my workday at a coffee shop or café in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood. For a few hours, I take a break from all the immediate work happening within my team and department to review the past week and plan for the week to come. I review open to dos, assess all the projects and initiatives on my plate, and check in with each member of my team to ensure I’m giving them the support they need. I call the time my Clarity Break.

I was introduced to the concept of Clarity Breaks by Kevin Hundal, the CEO of Atrend and an EOS Implementer. As Hundal explained it to me, our roles as managers require us, for the most part, to work within the business. We’re moving from thing to thing, task to task, and report to report, such that at times it can be hard to step back and put our work into context. Clarity breaks provide the time and space to think on the business and gain the perspective we need to ensure all the work we’re doing is to the right ends.

An illustration showing a manager trapped in the business, vs working above it

Put another way, imagine for a moment that the goal of all the work you and your team complete is to move a car a few miles down the highway. During the week, you and your team are carefully steering the vehicle past potholes and other vehicles, keeping fuel in the tank, and basically doing anything and everything you can to put some miles under your tires.

The clarity break is a pause from all this frantic activity to briefly check in on the reason you’re driving the car in the first place. It’s a place to ask the big questions: Should we still be driving in this direction? Is the engine healthy? Do I have the right team, and do they remember where we’re heading and why? Have I given them the tools to succeed?

If you’re interested in tapping into this as a practice, here are a few ground rules to build from:

Get outside the building.

Scheduling your Clarity Break away from your everyday work environment can help you take a step back. This might mean posting up at a coffee shop, or it could be intentional reflection during your commute.

Keep it consistent and regular.

Diving into some of the bigger questions can be hard if it only happens occasionally. With a weekly Clarity Break, you can build awareness and understanding over time.

Check in on your team.

Spend at least five minutes reviewing each team member. I keep it simple, writing down the name of each of my report and one or two sentences about their performance. It’s surprising what bubbles up through this exercise.

And here’s a bonus idea:
 I’ve started jotting down thoughts on my own performance. What am I doing well, what am I not? How would I evaluate myself? This has provided additional direction for how I can approach my boss, peers, and reports for feedback. It’s a great way to step out of your head and honestly evaluate what’s going well, and what needs improvement.

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Originally published at Manager Companion.