Filters and Ambiguity

By , April 8, 2014 5:16 pm

by Philippe Cloutier

AALL offered their third Leadership Academy this month (prior academies were held in 2009 and 2011). Two days in Oak Brook, Illinois were filled with learning, hands-on exercises, and networking. Over those days Gail Johnson and Pam Parr, of Face to Face Communications and Training, conveyed the skills and assessment factors needed in quality leadership. Gail and Pam offered a healthy amount of laughter and their Laurel & Hardy routines kept the event lively. Their message relied on proven methods, contemporary studies and surveys, and experiential wisdom.


Leadership continually remains a work in progress. Individually we are always reacting to people around us with filters created by our own experiences, values, and perspectives. Reserving judgment and listening are two of the many qualities that make up a great leader. On the first day, we learned the top seven general characteristics of leaders: honesty, forward-looking, competent, inspiring, intelligent, fair-minded, and broad-minded. As we considered these traits, we also thought of examples set by exemplary leaders: asking questions, spreading/growing ideas, and allowing others to participate in projects and decisions.

Attendees walked away with a plethora of new strategies and techniques, perhaps the most important strategy was clarity. Clarity defines accountability, expectations, and obvious consequences (positive or negative). Clarity can make or break performance.  To explain this, we were split into groups and given a seemingly simple task: teach a novice to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Gail and Pam chose the least clearly written steps and began the sandwich making process. The results were messy and the outcome was two halves of french bread slathered in peanut butter and jelly by hand. The humorous display cemented not only the need for clear direction and outcomes, but also showed that the number one form of miscommunication is an attempt at mind-reading. Recipe-makers assumed that the reader would know what to do. If something as simple as making a sandwich can be marred by unclear steps, it becomes obvious that more complicated matters often fail before they begin due to ambiguity.


One Response to “Filters and Ambiguity”

  1. You would be amazed at how many of my legal colleagues don’t quite grasp the “clarity” concept.

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