4 Ways Leaders Establish the Big Picture


Indulge me with a short thought experiment.

Imagine you’ve hired a professional photographer to get a well-crafted portrait of yourself. You arrive at the address he provided, which appears to be his house. You walk up to the front and ring the doorbell. He opens the door and seems a little surprised to see you.

“I’m here for my portrait session.” You say.

A spark of recognition flashes across his eyes. “Oh yeah. Hang on a second.”

He shuts the door in your face, leaving standing on the porch a bit bewildered. You look at your phone to confirm your appointment time and address are correct. They are. Just before you ring the doorbell again, the door opens and the photographer steps out with a camera strapped around his neck.

“OK. Uh, just stand over there.”

He points to a spot on the sidewalk about 3 feet behind you. You give him a puzzled look and slowly shuffle back according to his directions. He starts taking seemingly random shots. You realize the sun is backlighting you, which can’t be good for the photo. You haven’t changed into the clothes you brought for the photo session and the photographer gives you no suggestions for how to stand or which direction to look.

He lowers his camera. “OK. That’s it. I’ll go back and take a look at these. Maybe we’ll get lucky.” He re-enters his house and shuts the door behind him.

You return to your car to leave, highly doubtful that luck will be on your side.

We would never expect a photographer to treat a portrait session in this way. Since the main goal of a photographer is to take photographs, we anticipate they will use their expertise and exhibit some forethought in preparation for a photo session.

What about leaders? Since the main goal of a leader is to LEAD, do we expect some level of expertise and forethought as we do with professional photographers? Like a photographer sets up a beautiful picture, leaders can lay a groundwork for success.

4 Ways Leaders Establish the Big Picture

  1. Scout the location
    If you want people to try something new, you should do a little homework. You need to have a vision for where you’re leading others to. Get reports on the market, competition, new products, technology, etc. This doesn’t mean you have to know every detail, but familiarize yourself with the landscape (or ask someone you trust to scout it out for you) so you can paint the big picture.
  2. Select the props
    Make sure you have the tools for the job. This may not be software (though that’s where we often put our focus). It may be having the right processes in place or just having proper forms and documents for guidance. Those fulfilling the vision will be encouraged to know you’re supporting the effort appropriately.
  3. Prepare and coach the subjects
    Understand the skills gaps that exist on your team. Help develop your people in preparation for new tasks they’ll undertake. This could be through training, mentoring, coaching or other technical and leadership development.
  4. Pay attention to composition and focus
    Do you have the right mix of people to go where you’re leading? You may need to adjust the composition of your team to meet a different challenge. Then remind them where you’re all headed. Don’t chase the next shiny object you see, help them maintain focus on what is critical. This is why doing your homework earlier was so important, because now you must be certain the vision you’ve established is the priority for your team.

Having a “point & shoot” mentality may result in a getting a lucky photograph once in a while, but it will be much easier (in the long run) to achieve predictable success through proper preparation.

Dustin Staiger is a business and marketing coach in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, marketing, communications and creativity for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations as well as large enterprises.

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