I have a friend who told me a story about making a conscious decision to let his boss fail. You see, he was in charge of an event for his organization and the person assigned to handle registrations on the day of the event was called away on a business trip. He told his boss that he would handle the logistics of the registrations because there was so much to do and he explained to her all of the components that were involved.
She said no. She told him that she would assign the task to operations and he was to focus on other areas. He knew it was a mistake and he let her make it.
The day of the event came and the registration table wasn’t being manned, the attendees’ badges weren’t produced and the marketing signage for the event was missing.
It was embarrassing for the company but not a complete disaster. A few people jumped in and sat at the registration table and manually checked attendees against a spreadsheet. People asked for each other’s names instead of just reading the name off the badge. No one said anything about the missing signs.
The embarrassment could have been avoided though.
You see, the boss is a big picture person. When she got involved with the ‘problem’, she was only concerned about why it was a problem. One person couldn’t show up so she just assigned the task to another person. Problem solved.
My friend is a details person. He is concerned with how the problem is being solved. Does the person being assigned know about registration; the badges, the marketing signs, the check-in process, the timing, who has the marketing signs, how to print the badges, what they look like on the table, where to put the marketing signs, what happens if someone who isn’t registered shows up, etc.? Only when the person handling registration has a detailed checklist of all of the duties of that job will my friend be satisfied that the problem is solved.
It isn’t a matter or right or wrong. It is a matter of programming and context.
If you know that you are a big picture person and you are put into a context that requires detail, then you need the flexibility to be able to give that detail. The example above illustrates this.
If you are a detailed person and you are in a context of needing to communicate in a big picture way, you need to be able to have the ability to do that.
A completely different friend tried to give her boss a 17-page synopsis of the marketing strategy expecting him to read through each and every sentence. He kept sending it back to her saying, “it wasn’t right”. I told her to put call out boxes on each page highlighting the key points and send it back. It was accepted without any other changes.
Some situations need a big picture. Some need detail. Self-leaders need to understand how to communicate both.