Are you looking ahead, forecasting, predicting…um, guessing? Yikes, this is a tough place for detail-oriented or clarity-driven leaders to feel comfortable. That might be why it is so hard to keep our leadership activities at ‘high-level’ or as Heifetz and Linsky suggested in Leadership on the Line, ‘stay on the balcony’.
Business owners and leaders can be distracted by the little things: minute details (rather than long-range planning) and quick fixes (rather than permanent, more painful resolutions). Using our favorite skills gives us the sense of accomplishment we often crave, yet we are diverted from the most important activities and discussions. It is not fun making unpopular decisions or daring to ask the tough questions. Participating in concrete and immediate results is much more exciting… and safer.
However, defining the abstract or evaluating an important decision is still an accomplishment even if it doesn’t feel like a tangible assignment. Here are few ways to stay on the balcony:
- Find out what you need still to know: Sometimes that means deciphering what questions need to be asked in the first place. One of my favorite questions is “if you had enough information to make a wise decision, what would you know today?” I also wonder what questions people are afraid to ask? Or answer?
- Prioritize difficult questions: Always consider the actions or projects that will take the longest amount of time to set in motion? They may not seem to be the most critical now; but when those mounting and time-consuming tasks are due, you might not have the time. Which decisions should be made now, which must wait? If you’re like me, you cringe at the word ‘wait’! But, addressing things in good time might be the wisest choice.
- Work the high-level issues: This doesn’t mean fixing all the problems or answering all the questions. Once an opportunity is identified and prioritized, it is then assigned. Someone on your team may be responsible for resolution. Let the right people help you implement solutions while you use your skills where they are most valuable to the business. If you are working independently, seek out experts who offer shortcuts to implementation. (A word of free advice, can be a game-changer!)
We must stay on the balcony. Removed from the ‘dirty work’, where we can observe and provide guidance. We must resist the temptation to ‘busy’ ourselves with the easy stuff, choosing instead to tackle the hard stuff. Refuse the lure of concrete accomplishments and focus your attention on required learning, decision-making, and planning. Only when you ask the right questions, will you find the right answers.
Leaders in muddy trenches only fling mud when they point! – Michelle Sugerman
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She hosts global masterminds, called Synergy Groups, for REALLY BUSY Christians leading with powerful confidence and humble hearts. She works with high-performing leaders focused on organizational effectiveness by refining strategy, inspiring teams, and delighting clients. Michelle specializes in the areas of information technology, project management, franchise management, and business as mission. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 21 years.