30,000 ft, the Weeds, & somewhere in the Middle

photoPerspective. Your employees have one. And your customers have one. And as a leader, you have one too but you also have a unique role. Not only must you keep your fingers on the pulse of the employees and your customers (their perspective); but you also must be able to find the right balance of the macro and micro views of the organization. It’s the skill that ensures your future success.

Meet Buddy and Buster. They are the lovable dogs of a good friend of mine. I saw them recently and found it interesting to watch their behavior. Now they are happy, hyper dogs, mind you, so lots of movement and action is normal for these two. But notice where they are standing in this picture…on top of the table. Why? I suspect to get a better view. And you know what? The same is true for leaders too. It’s important to climb to higher elevation from time to time. Why? The view changes. Consider the value you gain (and momentum you gain) when you learn how to move between each perspective of your team or business.

The View from the Top
It’s funny. Everything seems small when you are in an airplane. Skyscrapers, traffic and even complete cities take on a different view when you are flying high above them. The same is true for a leader. When you pause and remove yourself from the day to day, the bigger picture slowly comes into focus. What may seem like an overwhelming complaint or decision suddenly pulls into a frame we can think about. Some folks call this working “on” your business versus “in” your business. And it’s true. You must slip away periodically (I suggest once a month) and look at your team or business from that 30,000 foot view. That’s when you can think about the big goals you are trying to accomplish with your team? It also gives you the chance to think about these questions:

  • What have I or my team accomplished in the last month or quarter?
  • How are we tracking to meet this year’s goals?
  • What customer feedback have we received in the last four weeks? And what are doing with it?
  • How is my team doing? Any problem areas I need to address? Any recognition overdue?

Getting into the Weeds
Just as a 30,000 foot view is critical so is life in the weeds? What happens here? It’s where the details live. Not the doldrums of daily tasks but those tiny details that make your team or business one degree better than everyone else. It’s the magic of your differentiation. This requires the same discipline has the big picture assessments of the team. Create the discipline to drill into the business periodically (I suggest once a month) and dig a little deeper in the details but asking these questions:

  • Specifically, how is each member of my team performing? What feedback do they need from me to move forward?
  • How well are we fixing our mistakes/errors so they don’t become recurring problems?
  • What are the top three frustrations customers have with us? How can we fix them?
  • What are the top three strengths customers tell us? How are ensuring they continue to make us better?

Living in the Middle
Finally, great leaders learn the discipline of moving between 30,000 feet and the weeds. Your every day leadership of the team is the “middle” – the typical Monday-Friday taking care of our customers activities. The time you spend in macro and micro focus will help you determine how long to continue in the day to day. There is magic in the middle. It’s where your employees and customers live. And without their perspective it’s difficult to move forward.

Now back to Buddy and Buster. These dogs are hilarious. After a few short minutes they were back on the ground with their noses in the grass. So even dogs know the importance of multiple perspectives. Maybe we can learn a thing or two from our canine friends.

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