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The Clarity and Freedom Matrix: Why thinking like a conductor will unleash excellence

27th July 2023
The Clarity / Freedom matrix - with high clarity and high freedom, you create engagement

Prioritising employee engagement has never been more important. But making sure your team has clear goals needs to be balanced with giving them the freedom they need to thrive.

When I first started managing teams I understood some of the basic principles: don’t micromanage, be clear in your goals, and trust both your team’s and your own instincts. 

But it wasn’t until I started thinking about how these concepts all fitted together that my business really started to thrive. 

When I started to visualise the ‘Clarity and Freedom Matrix’, it was a transformative moment that has guided me towards a more productive and engaged team. 

Simply put, there is a delicate balance between clarity and freedom and you can’t have one without the other. As a leader, the culture you create and the directions you give will be followed by the business. Like the conductor of an orchestra, everyone playing in harmony. But if you set the wrong tone and you’ll end up listening to a terrible mess! 

Here’s what happens if you get the balance wrong: 

No Clarity, No Freedom: The Zombie Concerto 

This is the worst piece of music you can create. 

There’s nothing worse than the disengagement and indifference created by a group of employees who meander through their work day like lost souls in purgatory: they watch the clock and collect their payslips without any purpose to their work lives. 

Without clarity, employees cannot align their actions with organisational goals; without freedom, they cannot contribute their unique talents; and without a leader willing to give them both, they lack any opportunity to do better. 

As a conductor, try to avoid this off-key result at all costs! 

Clarity without Freedom: The Dance of the Drones 

Congratulations, you’ve managed to set clear goals for your team. You’ve done your job and perfectly orchestrated a great performance… unfortunately it’s a uniquely uninspired one! 

Any leader that offers clarity but restricts freedom will find every note meticulously played, but won’t get any of the passion that leads to a good performance.  

What’s worse is that, over time, your team will become robotic and obedient. This means they’ll never be able to think on their feet or solve problems without you. And this is not the path to employee engagement.  

It also means you and your business fail to gain any of your employees’ unique skills, talent and expertise. Freedom is vital for your team to thrive, but the person who really loses out in this scenario is the leader who doesn’t harness the full power of their team. 

Freedom without Clarity: Chaos in the Choir 

In this movement of the symphony, all sense of purpose is lost in the noise. 

Here, your team is given all the liberty they need to express themselves and pursue their own goals – but no clear path to a defined outcome.  

Every team member does their own thing without any clear expectations or shared purpose, which sees collaboration collapse and productivity peter out – leaving your business bereft. 

Clarity with Freedom: The Superhero Symphony 

This is the land we want to reach, when we’ve given our teams great clarity as well as the freedom to go with it. And here every team is filled with Superheroes. 

Each member harnesses their unique powers and unleashes their true potential towards conquering all of the challenges your business faces. 

They possess a deep understanding of their roles, goals, and expectations and have the autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of their work. 

In this scenario, they become an unstoppable force, driving innovation, creativity, and above all exceptional results – a piece of music you’ll listen to over and over again. 

Grab your baton 

Remember that balancing clarity and freedom is a delicate one and requires copious amounts of trust along the way.  

But, like me, I hope the matrix has shown you how an attentive conductor can bring the best out of their orchestra by creating the conditions for success.

Read more about building a great workplace culture by giving your teams the chance to reflect, reassess and reset.

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