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.
But, defining the abstract or evaluating an important decision is still an accomplishment even if it doesn’t feel like a tangible assignment.
- 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 of most value to the business.
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, and 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
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She founded Synergy Groups, virtual masterminds connecting Christians in leadership around the globe for the purpose of Community, Accountability, and Transformation. She also partners with high-performers and heirs-apparent especially in the STEM industries. Michelle’s formal background in technology, franchise, and project management gives her an edge on implementing best practices and scaling towards sustainable success. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.