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KEY POINTS:

1. High-performance teams have clarity of vision and dream. A healthy high-performance team starts by asking, what’s the dream? What’s the vision?

2. Clarity involves three aspects: understanding job expectations, understanding how to fulfill those expectations, and understanding the consequences of job performance.

3. When team members can “see” what they need to do, how to do it, and be able to assess how well they’re doing it – that’s clarity.

Now that you know that each element of a healthy high-performance team is also a critical element in your (and my and everyone’s) overall mental health, let’s jump right into the first one: clarity.

Clarity basically involves three aspects: understanding job expectations, understanding how to fulfill those expectations, and understanding the consequences of job performance.

When you add it all up, high-performance teams have clarity of vision and dream. Those aspects above are the individual parts of that clarity.

Let me give you an example:

About 18 months ago, I was in a group of grad students, doctors and serious mountaineers who wanted to climb Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador. If you take into account the equatorial bulge, Chimborazo is actually two kilometers higher than Everest. We wanted to be closer to the stars than any other humans (those up on the International Space Station don’t count!).

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It’s a challenging climb: steep, dangerous in parts, and a very high altitude of over 6,000 metres at the peak. Plus, the climb begins at the memorial site of those who have failed. The psychology of starting from a graveyard is pretty bleak. Also, I developed some altitude sickness on the climb and experienced tunnel vision, dizziness and confusion. There were some tough times.

In the end, two of my grad students got onto the summit while we older people stopped just below, wanting to survive to return to our families!

We were all able to participate in that expedition because of our clear vision: we wanted to be the humans closest to the stars. We focused on that during extensive training and the climb. That clarity kept us focused. It got us up and it got us back.

Over time, exercising your clarity and focus appears to change a structure in the brain called the inferior frontal cortex, which is involved in decision making and the interpretation of information from the environment. It becomes strengthened when you focus repeatedly. The structure of your brain actually changes. And so, of course, does your ability to maintain focus.

Think of others with exceptional focus and vision, like Elon Musk. SpaceX is about making humanity a multi-planetary species. Tesla and SolarCity are about a carbon-free future. Those very clear visions drive those organizations forward rather than, for example, merely making a car. Or consider J.K. Rowling, a single mother living in poverty and struggling with depression. Her first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 12 publishing houses, one of whom suggested she get a day job since she had little chance of making a living with children’s books. But she had a clear vision and stayed faithful to it.

A healthy high-performance team starts by asking, what’s the dream? What’s the vision? When team members can “see” what they need to do, how to do it, and be able to assess how well they’re doing it – that’s clarity. That’s the vision and the dream.

Today's POWER-UP: Clarity of Vision 

The foundation of great team performance is for leaders (you can always lead without a title - anyone on a team can and should be a leader) to be absolutely clear about what their vision is for the project that the team is seeking to complete or achieve. The vision can be a dream if it is big picture or a goal if the task is more concrete and time-limited. The outcome of the project should be articulated and stated. The vision should be stated verbally and in writing at every opportunity. 

Some examples include:

1. When we were climbing Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador our objective was to become the humans who were the closest to the stars.

2. Elon Musk is creating a carbon-free future through his companies Tesla and Solar City.

3. A school in Baltimore changed their school culture by using meditation instead of detention.

So what is your vision for your key project for this year? Let’s get that written down and test it out by saying aloud in meetings and presentations and writing it in blog posts or other communications.