One of my mentors, Harvard professor Ron Heifetz, likes to say that leaders can either be on the dance floor or on the balcony. In the fast-paced world that we live and work in, it can be all too easy to spend most of your time dancing and not enough up on the balcony observing what’s working, what’s not and what adjustments you need to make to live and lead at your best. In other words, you can be so busy doing things, you don’t see what needs to be done.
Here are three action steps you can take to spend more time and attention on taking the big picture perspective.
First, regularly ask yourself, “What else is going on in the world that matters?” Spend some time each week to learn something new about trends in technology, business, politics, society, the arts and other domains unrelated to your daily work. What interests you? What are you seeing that might have a direct or indirect impact on you, your team, your organization, your friends and your family? What action steps or opportunities do those trends suggest for you?
Second, get in the habit of asking yourself, “Will this matter a year from now?” When you’re dancing as fast as you can, it’s easy to end up in a state of fight or flight where everything feels like a crisis. When you notice yourself feeling spun up by an issue or a challenge, take a few deep breaths from your belly and ask yourself, “Will this matter a year from now?” Chances are that it won’t and you can adjust your approach accordingly. If you determine it will matter a year from now, there’s still an opportunity to adjust to a different approach by asking a second question, “How do I need to show up to create a great outcome?”
Third, step back from time to time to ask, “What else am I trying to accomplish?” I find that most leaders are really clear about what they want to accomplish at work. However, they often focus so much on their work outcomes that they don’t have a big picture perspective on two other big arenas of life – their life at home and their life in their community. Don’t let that happen to you. Take some time to write down the outcomes you’re trying to create not just at work but at home and in your community as well. Check yourself against those outcomes at least monthly so you can make the adjustments that would help you accomplish your goals in all three arenas of life.
For more ideas on how to take the big picture perspective, check out chapter three of The Next Level – Pick up regular renewal of your energy and perspective; Let go of running flat out until you crash.
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