I was in a meeting yesterday with two individuals who were becoming increasingly frustrated with each other. Both were having a difficult time connecting with the other’s thought process, even though both of them are quite intelligent and extremely successful.
One of them said “It’s always this way. He gets mad at me because I hit him with the details and he doesn’t do details”.
I realized at that moment (sometimes I can be a bit slow) what the problem was. They were at completely different altitudes and both were necessary altitudes. The individual that didn’t do details is the visionary. He has built his practice into a multi-million dollar enterprise and has sustained it for years in spite of vicious competition within his sector. The other individual has been the reason that vision has rolled out. She is in the trenches on a daily basis working the details necessary to carry out the vision. She is in the weeds, out of necessity. He is at 30,000 feet, out of necessity.
While these next paragraphs might seem tangential, they carry a very important point. In the National Football League, two of the three highest paid positions are quarterback and offensive line. Why? This is where the strategy is carried out. The quarterback has to see the whole field. He has to read what 21 other players are doing in the split seconds before several hundred pounds of opposing players squash him into the turf. He has to see the 30,000 foot view. If he watches just one player, he can miss vital opportunities.
The offensive line, to the contrary, have to focus on their individual assignment. While one of them might pull to help another lineman if the play requires, their job has nothing to do with anything beyond their immediate reach. And that reach is vital for any success of the team.
There seems to be a misconception in some of the groups I work with that “weeds” individuals are short-sighted and ineffective. The visionaries usually get the credit for making things happen. Many times egos get into action and progress slows to a halt.
For a moment, those of you who might be familiar with football, can you consider something? Have you ever watched a game where the front line was not blocking well? Just how well did the ‘visionary’ quarterback do? There was no opportunity for him to carry out the strategy, regardless of his talent. Conversely, regardless of how well the front line is blocking, if the ‘visionary’ is not looking well downfield, there is little chance for the team to make progress.
Now consider for a moment your work groups and units. Who are the visionaries and who are the blockers. It is essential that you as the leader figure this out. I believe that most people can learn to think on a larger scale and also learn to pay attention to detail.
However, it has been my experience that most have a sweet spot that, when given the chance to flourish, provides amazing results.
I would say that the first step would be to determine where your talents lay. Where do find yourself focusing the most? Where does most of your success come from? In what area do you find people look to you for input? Where can you work all day and not become mentally tired?
As you determine where your talents lay, then find the complement for those talents within your group and work with that person to find the same synergy that exists in the finest of the NFL teams. A marvelous book on this topic of complementary talents is Michael Eisner’s Working Together. He analyzes ten different pairings of some of the most successful work teams in history and how they usually combined a ‘weeds’ person and a ‘30,000 foot’ person.
After you feel confident in your location on the field, use your leadership talents to help those you lead determine where they best play. A crucial part here is the cheerleading necessary. Remember that the visionaries usually see the fame and the success. The weeds players do not. So as a leader, you need to make sure that those in the trenches know that they are necessary, appreciated, and rewarded.
Remember, being a ‘weeds’ professional is not a bad thing. And being a ‘30,000 foot’ professional is not the only thing. Without vision, there is no work in the weeds. Without the weeds, there is no carrying out of the vision.
Balancing those is one of the tests of your good leadership.