Bob was one of the great supervisors that I studied. The teams he led were always productive and people loved to work for him. His reputation for preparing people for promotion was a big plus. His peers thought he was great, too, because he always seemed to have the time to help them when they needed it or offer a bit of insightful advice when they asked.
As much as people loved Bob and respected him and the work that he did, most of us fell victim at one time or another to his wicked sense of humor. That’s what happened the day after Bob’s boss told him that he didn’t seem to “have the big picture” about some issue or other.
The next morning Bob walked into his boss’s office with something in his hand. “What’s up?” his boss asked.
“I’ve been thinking about our conversation,” Bob said, “I think you’re right. I really don’t have the big picture. But I think I’m making progress. Here.”
Bob handed his boss a postcard from the local art museum. The boss’s brow furrowed. He thought for a moment. Then he looked up at Bob and asked, “What’s this?”
“I went out and got that last night,” Bob said, smiling wickedly. “I don’t have the big picture yet, but that’s a picture of the big picture. So, I’m making progress, right?”
The Big Picture Is Important
If you’re a boss, it’s important that you have the big picture. Actually, you need more than one.
You need to have the big picture of your organization and its values and goals. Without that big picture, you can’t make wise decisions about how your team’s efforts contribute to organizational success.
That’s the other kind of big picture you need. Leadership is about rallying people to make progress. The big picture for your team is the kind of progress you’re going to make. How will your team accomplish its goals? How will your team be better tomorrow and next month and next year than it is today?
You Need the Little Pictures, Too
Having the big pictures is how you help your team succeed and accomplish its mission. But that’s not all there is to your job. Part of your job is helping your team members succeed.
Bob was great at that. Every week or so, he’d talk with each team member about what he could do to help them succeed. That gave him lots of little pictures.
He learned how one team member wanted to complete his degree, so he could move up in the organization. Bob arranged for an assignment to a different job where he would have the scheduling flexibility to get that degree. Another team member wanted to improve her speaking skills. Once Bob knew that, he could help her take classes when they came up and qualify for the organization’s community relations department to give speeches in the community.
Bob made sure that he had the little picture that was unique to each member of his team. Then he took things a step further. He did whatever was in his power to help them succeed at what mattered to them.
Great leaders make sure they have the big picture, so they know how their team’s work fits into the greater scheme of things and so that the team gets better and better. Great leaders also have the little pictures that belong to each team member, so the leader can help the team members succeed at their individual goals.