Clarity First Newsletter,
April 17, 2020

“In each of us, there is a little voice that knows exactly which way to go. And I learned very early to listen to it, even though it has caused so much grief and havoc, and I think that is the only answer.” – Alice Walker

Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

Holy moly. Can you believe what we’re going through? Even more incredible, can you believe how well your own team is responding?

A case in point: my partner, Liz Solomon, and I are serving a domestic violence prevention agency. In times of crisis like this, the incidence of domestic violence goes up, a lot. Yet three weeks ago the agency was ordered by our governor to work at home. These are social workers. They depend on social interaction to do their jobs. Few had any experience with working remotely. Some did not even have a computer at home.

But this week, just three weeks later, we opened a meeting with the senior leadership team with a simple prompt: “Name two words to describe how you are feeling.”

Those words included: “Motivated, Touched, Grateful (4 people), Relieved, Raring to go, Hopeful, Relaxed, and Centered.”

We can do this, dear reader. We are doing this. Happy Friday.

Leadership, Gender Dynamics

Step aside, son. This is a job for a woman.

“Looking for examples of true leadership in a crisis? From Iceland to Taiwan and from Germany to New Zealand, women are stepping up to show the world how to manage a messy patch for our human family. Add in Finland, Iceland and Denmark, and this pandemic is revealing that women have what it takes when the heat rises in our Houses of State. Many will say these are small countries, or islands, or other exceptions. But Germany is large and leading, and the UK is an island with very different outcomes. These leaders are gifting us an attractive alternative way of wielding power. What are they teaching us?”

Article: What Do Countries With The Best Coronavirus Responses Have In Common? Women Leaders

Human Rights

Community-led responses to the COVID-19 epidemic are providing a model for treating the vulnerable that should remain when this crisis comes to an end.

Illustration by iStock/sv_sunny

“Amid a disaster like COVID-19, the culprits of some of the worst abuses of power are the very systems and structures that we often turn to for leadership. The abuses can be committed with calculated awareness, such as when US Senators privately sold off millions in stocks while publicly downplaying the threat of the virus. Other times, institutional aid efforts unintentionally create ripple effects that disproportionally and severely affect vulnerable communities. In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, shelter-in-place policies and the curtailment of public services have devastated families with precarious employment and people without homes.

“Whether harm differs by being intentional or structural, it is the same in one critical way: Top-down, centrally managed systems of power can end up creating havoc due to the lack of their understanding of local communities.”

Article: Lessons From Mutual Aid During the Coronavirus Crisis

Futures Thinking

Bill McKibben on inequality, ecological turmoil, and building a hardier post-virus world

Inequality means that some people must live near sources of air pollution, such as a steel mill, in Detroit—which in turn weakens their lungs and means that they can’t fight off COVID-19. Photograph from Alamy

“The coronavirus pandemic has revealed one particularly shocking thing about our societies and economies: they have been operating on a very thin margin. The edifice seems so shiny and substantial, a world of silver jets stitching together cities of towering skyscrapers, a globe of soaring markets and smartphone connectivity. But a couple of months into this disease and it’s all tottering, the jets grounded and the cities silent and the markets reeling. One industry after another is heading for bankruptcy, and no one knows if they will come back. In other words, however shiny it may have seemed, it wasn’t very sturdy. Some people—the President, for instance—think that we can just put it all back like it was before, with a “big bang,” once the “invisible enemy” is gone. But any prosperity built on what was evidently a shaky foundation is going to seem Potemkinish going forward; we don’t want always to feel as if we’re just weeks away from some kind of chaos.

“So if we’re thinking about building civilization back in a hardier and more resilient form, we’ll have to learn what a more stable footing might look like. I think that we can take an important lesson from the doctors dealing with the coronavirus, and that’s related to comorbidity, or underlying conditions. It turns out, not surprisingly, that if you’ve got diabetes or hypertension, or have a suppressed immune system, you’re far more likely to be felled by covid-19.”

Article: How We Can Be a Hardier World After the Coronavirus

Design Thinking

Digital-first may be the business habit we need most: it’s an under-appreciated mindset that could literally change the way we think ahead.

In just three weeks every service offering with which I am currently engaged, domestic violence prevention, higher education, ecological design, fine homebuilding, pest control, and independent education, has been abruptly faced with an existential challenge: can we deliver our service while minimizing physical human contact?

Wilson Fletcher has been considering this question for a long time. In 2018 he shared this article that posits that from here on out we should be approaching any new opportunity, or problem, “with the assumption that the solution should be as digital as possible”.

“Fundamentally, this is very simple:

  1. Imagine as much of the service that you are creating as possible being used by customers in digital form.
  2. Imagine as much of the service as possible being powered by underlying digital platforms.”

To illustrate his point he asks us to consider redesigning the airport. “We’d start by reframing the challenge to be more digital-friendly. Instead of thinking about how we create a place where travelers go to get on planes as smoothly as possible, we’d try to get to the more fundamental question: how do we create a process to get travelers onto planes as smoothly as possible?”

Article: Digital-First: the Essential Modern Business Mindset

Leadership, Learning

Managers across creative teams share their best practices to thoughtfully lead from afar.

“As managers navigate the new landscape of managing their teams from home, leaders of ACLU share emerging best practices and what they are doing to provide their teams with clarity and support as they work remotely.”

Article: How to Lead Your Team Remotely 


Refining the sales funnel to meet the real needs of the customer

“Wouldn’t it be great to start the interaction with your customers with a conversation – or a substantial Discovery discussion – before offering a live demo?
    –  Consider the time saved for both customers and vendors by focusing on the identified issues
    –  Consider the shortened sales and buying cycles, enabled by improved clarity

    –  And consider the reduction of wasted demos delivered by valuable pre-sales folks”

Article: Thousands of Websites Offer “Book a Demo” – Should Another Option Be “Book a Conversation”?

Personal Development, Writing

Nine learning hacks we can borrow from musicians

Photo by Dolo Iglesias on Unsplash

“Recently, I discovered that I can credit my adult work ethic almost exclusively to my childhood piano lessons. I began studying classical piano at the age of six and earned an associate’s diploma as a teenager. I subsequently taught piano and music theory for a number of years. Through these experiences, I have witnessed the impact of good and bad work habits among young pianists.

“I believe in working smart, not just working hard. And I believe many of these musical work habits can be applied to other fields, even writing, which is what my adult career has come to. Today, I’ll share these habits and principles with you.”

Article: How to Use a Musician’s Work Ethic for Writing Success

Just for Fun

@Bodegacats is a Twitter account that curates photos of cats in corner stores that remind you who really calls the shots.


This week Sting joined Jimmy Fallon (who can sing!) and The Roots (the best damn band in the world, imo) to perform a social distancing remix of The Police’s hit “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” with instruments found at home while in quarantine. (Watch the guy playing the pillow. In a live room that’s the kick drum. It’s the root beat that everybody else leans on.)

Video: Don’t Stand So Close to Me

Image of the week

Banksy, the anonymous street artist who no longer sells photographs or reproductions of his street graffiti, but whose public “installations” have been resold for as much as $12.2 million, is practicing social distancing, too. This week he posted this image on his Instagram account, wryly commenting that “My wife hates it when I work at home”.

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

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