CEO Coaching: The Big Picture

I recently replaced eight porch screens. Several trips to Home Depot and I had supplies and an upgraded nailer and stapler. Between multiple cats and frequent visits from grandkids, I elected to use the “pet resistant” screen material, which isn’t cheap. 

I’m not usually a do-it-yourself guy, subscribing to comparative advantage (i.e., having a professional do it and doing what I do best to produce income to pay the professional), but my inner fix-it guy took over. 

During several days of work, I made some stupid mistakes because I was narrowly focused rather than being mindful of the big picture (e.g., mismatching screen and window, carefully replacing trim with a nail gun…upside down, etc.). In college, I worked for a cabinet maker so was well-versed in the “measure twice, cut once” mindset. But I apparently reversed the order on this project!

The two ends of the “thinking small, thinking big” continuum aren’t good places for leaders to plant themselves. Those who spend all their time thinking big (let’s call them dreamers) can be wonderfully enlightened. But at some point, you must get your head out of the clouds and get stuff done! And those who use a microscope when a wide-angle lens is required (let’s call them watchmakers) can tell you what each part is but can’t tell you what time it is! 

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman wrote a brilliant book called “Thinking, Fast and Slow” that I suggest you read. The parallel is part-time dreamer, part-time watchmaker. As a leader, you need to be both. Strategic and tactical. Focus on your vision but also manage cash. 

Are you likely more comfortable or adept at one end of the spectrum? Probably, but you can learn to do both. The solution is focusing on process rather than inclination. You can develop processes to think strategically and still dive into detail when necessary. You can also develop the discipline to use your calendar to identify a time for each. (You’ll know you’re succeeding when you’re slightly uncomfortable for part of your week.)

I finished my repair work, and it looks and functions great. However, had I been both dreamer and watchmaker (in the correct order), I would’ve had fewer trips to the hardware store and saved a lot of time! Rework is demoralizing and a waste of resources!

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