Three Key Words for Leaders via Debra Jarvis: Comfort – Clarify – Confront

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Comfort Clarity Confront

I wrote a first post, inspired by this Ted Talk given by Debra Jarvis, a chaplain, about the importance of defining your meaning and claiming your experience. In this post, I tackle a second message that resonated with me in her speech; one that pertains to leadership, especially in challenging times.

How do you define your job?

As a leader, of course, one must define the organization’s vision. But, in terms of day-to-day exemplarity and management, how is a leader to define his or her role and purpose? Here’s where Debra Jarvis’ speech sparked a light switch with me. With a little marketing zest, she referred to the three C’s of a chaplain’s job (and, for once, these 3C’s don’t include the word content!):

  • Comfort
  • Clarify
  • Confront or Challenge (when necessary)

For a chaplain, comfort was quite anticipated. The clarify mission was a little less intuitive. While she didn’t elaborate so much about clarification, one can assume it is about helping to answer difficult questions. Then the “confront” assignment was even more unexpected for a chaplain. As Jarvis qualified it, confronting and/or challenging her parishioners is only “when necessary.”

Comfort – Clarify – Confront : For Parents & Leaders

Here is where my mind wondered as I listened: Are these three verbs not ideal the role of a parent? Going further, I furrowed my brow thinking about whether these three roles might not also apply for the leader of an evolved company? I would tend to believe that the order is typically reversed, but each has its place in the arc of a leader’s bow. Providing Comfort I equate to having true empathy. In these trying times, where everyday people are being terrorized (without talking about situations such as Havas which lost 4 employees in the #ParisAttacks), a leader’s authenticity is called into action. Clarify is all about making sure that the vision is clear to everyone. It may be repetitive, but it is so critical that the message be systematically brought down through the ranks. Every part of the organization needs to understand with clarity the part it plays in achieving the company’s mission. Finally, to Confront one’s employees is an almost regular activity for a leader. As intuitive it may be for a CEO, to confront is less intuitive for a chaplain. A leader is typically most comfortable in the role of confronting his/her staff. Clarifying the goals and the strategy in these constantly changing times is critical. Meanwhile, bringing the personal touch and providing comfort is, in my opinion, a becoming characteristic for the leader.

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