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  • Writer's pictureYvonne Root

Leadership — Develop an eye for the big picture

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

How neglecting some things in your business pays off

Here’s the deal; big picture thinking is a core leadership competency. Yes, as a leader, you must see the forest and let others be concerned about the trees.

Savvy construction leaders focus more on steering long-range objectives, providing inspiration, and motivating others. They are likely to:

  1. Anticipate opportunities, contingencies, and potential problems

  2. See idea, theory, and concept connections

  3. Understand people networks and relationships

  4. Discern and make use of data

  5. Avoid or (at least) reduce discord

  6. Recognize associates, collaborators, and competitors

  7. Develop the skill of situational awareness

Therefore, all the minor things, the “details,” are left to others. Experienced leaders know how to delegate, designate, automate, or eliminate.

By giving your team the opportunity to take care of the details you gain more time for effectively leading.

A few examples of big picture thinkers

According to Rowan Bayne, author of “Psychological Types At Work,” about twenty-five percent of the population are big picture thinkers.

Wow, not a huge group. Here are a few examples you’ll recognize.

  1. George Washington

  2. Winston Churchill

  3. Steve Jobs

  4. Sandra Day O’Connor

  5. Aristotle

  6. Jeff Bezos

  7. Warren Buffett

  8. Mark Cuban

  9. Elon Musk

Big pictures and details

While some have a natural tendency to see the big picture others are more likely to focus on the details.

For years I believed you had to be one or the other. You had to be someone who could see the big picture or someone who thrived on dealing with the details. Then, I discovered the concept isn’t that simple. Or that hard.

Rather, there seems to be a continuum or scale on which we all fall. At one end are the folks who find it difficult to notice details because they’re so focused on the big picture. And vice versa, at the other end, people who are so close to the details they don’t seem to notice there is a big picture.

And then, there are those who fall in between.

Big picture and detail in the Schulte and Schulte office

We were interested where the folks in our office were located on that scale. So, we took a little test.

Tonya came in at 60

This is what she learned, “You scored as more of a ‘big picture’ thinker. This means that you often zoom out and try to understand a situation from a broader perspective, but you sometimes miss out on the finer details. You likely consider yourself more of an ‘artistic’ or ‘creative’ person rather than a ‘scientific’ or ‘rational’ person. You aren’t as interested in the small nuts and bolts of how things work, but how things fit together in a larger context. The closer your score is to “100” the more of a ‘big picture’ thinker you are.”

Alicia scored 34

She was told, “You scored as more of a ‘detail oriented’ thinker. This means that you often zoom in and breakdown a situation based on its individual parts, but you sometimes miss out on the bigger picture. You likely consider yourself more of an ‘scientific’ or ‘rational’ person rather than an ‘artistic’ or ‘creative’ person. You are often interested in the small nuts and bolts of how things work but find it difficult to see things fit together in a larger context. The closer your score is to ‘0’ the more of a ‘detail oriented’ thinker you are.”

Joe showed up at 49

His results were, “You scored as equal parts ‘big picture’ thinker and ‘detail oriented’ thinker. This means that you are capable of zooming out and trying to understand a situation from a broader perspective, but you’re also good at zooming in and seeing the finer details of how things work. You likely consider yourself both an ‘artistic’ and ‘creative’ person, as well as a ‘scientific’ and ‘rational’ person, depending on the situation.”

Take the quiz

You may already have an idea where you fall on the continuum. Or you may be surprised. So, go ahead and take the quiz. It is free and you don’t have to give your email to get the results. It is twenty-five questions long and takes only minutes to complete.

Not only will you have a better idea of which traits you already possess, but you’ll also be able to note in which areas you may need to improve. And yes, it is interesting to get others in the office to take the quiz also. It may be eye-opening for you and your staff or coworkers.

In case you were wondering, I received the same response as Joe although my score was 54.

Unexpected ways to improve your big picture eye

Stay informed. Think about what is happening beyond your business or community. Think about trends in demographic, economic, social, and technological ways.

Be sociable – in person. Connect with a variety of people. Spend time talking with people from different areas of life. More important than talking to them is listening to them. Consider other’s opinions and views.

Read or listen to books. Not just construction or business-related books. Read about the “things of interest” in your mind. Science, music, history, people, or ideas you wish to explore. Whatever. Have fun. And learn some stuff along the way.

Volunteer. Of course, there is always value in the act of helping others. But you may not have thought of the value you can receive from seeing the world from a different perspective. Plus, typically when you volunteer you can interact with like-minded people who show up where you show up.

Chase rabbits. OK, there is a different term for this activity. Some call it “surfing the web.” Go with no purpose in mind. Travel to places you’ve never gone before. See something that interests you? Chase it down. Share what you learned with others. (In the past, this category would have been called, Go to the library.)

Play games. From getting involved with an amateur sports team to playing board or card games there are many ways to play games. And oh, what you can learn! Leadership skills, teamwork, staying on track, focus, determination, and sportsmanship are just a few of the lessons learned from playing games. Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned is to not take yourself too seriously – have fun along the way.

Check this out also

This article is the third in a four-part series concerning leadership in the construction world. The first was, Leadership – Keep learning. The Next was Leadership — Practice Composure.  And the fourth is Leadership — Inspire others

We desire to familiarize you with business concepts, which will make it easier for you to be a better commercial construction subcontractor through our blog posts. Some are new ways of looking at things, and others are refreshers. 

Schulte and Schulte Provides Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs! Call us 866-629-7735

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