Managers who dig in lose sight of the big picture

Good managers know when to focus. But first they must be aware of their surroundings.

When Grace gets her mind-set on something, there is no stopping her. If I have, or can get, part of her attention prior to when she starts on one her frenzied “hunts”, it’s a whole different situation than when I don’t. Getting her mind open to everything around her, not just one thing, improves the outcome. And that’s my recommendation for managers. No matter how strongly you feel about an issue, remain open to all that is around you. It doesn’t mean you should change your mind. But you might be surprised at what you learn.

When Grace is fixated on something, it’s nearly impossible to get her off of it. She gets so wound up, either excited or nervous, and then she loses all sense of the big picture. You can see her here hyper-intent to reach a chipmunk that has burrowed itself under our porch. There was nothing I could say or do that would pull Grace away from her mission.

Nor was there anyway she was going to get what she wanted using this approach. With her hovering, the chipmunk would be going nowhere. But if Grace had decided to back off, relax, and remain alert to the chipmunk’s next move, she might have had a chance to get what she wanted (not that I really wanted her to grab hold of the chirpy critter, but you see what I mean about her approach!).

And so it is with a manager when she is too narrowly focused on any particular decision or process. It results in frustrated employees who become disengaged from working with a stubborn manager—a manager that has entered a conversation without any regard for the people or opinions around us. When that leader remains intent on digging in, doing whatever she feels it will take to get what she wants, pushing her desires above all others, it creates a void in the information exchange that is critical. But what would happen if that manager opened up to all around her, if she sat back and took in the scenery, making observations of body language, tones in the voices in the room, even silence. What would those tell her?

Lots! Even when the views are opposing, it’s valuable information. And it doesn’t mean that you have to change your mind. Being open to more data and to what others think might give you a new perspective, but certainly doesn’t mean you have to. Different viewpoints can guide you in how to deal with the objections that you will face in bringing any change to fruition. If you are oblivious to those obstacles, you can’t effectively deal with them. Burying your head in the sand may make it easier for you in the early stages, but those objections will not go away and you will be dealing with them in one way or another down the road.

Just like with Grace, if I can get her attention to talk to her, I can communicate with her successfully. But if she’s not listening, all bets are off.

I recently observed a situation in a weekly management meeting where the organization’s leader announced a new project. A few leading questions are asked by the team, which were dismissed with quick answers by the leader. What the leader missed is that sometimes a person will ask an easy question to get the conversation going, when in fact, they want to broach a concern that is more difficult to discuss. Without giving proper time to the topic, key points can be missed — or ignored. That is not helpful for anyone, even though it may seem more expeditious at the time. Rather than immediately answering the question, I suggest you ask yourself, or even the person who asked: “why would this question be asked?” Once you dig deeper, you learn if there is more to the story that needs to be uncovered.

Leaders often feel like they must have all the answers, standing firm on their direction. In their quest to be authoritative, they forget to gather facts and opinions that will help them make a better decision. These opposing views can also offer valuable insight as to what objections need to be overcome when implementing a new action plan.

The next time you feel incredibly certain of a decision or plan you are introducing, honor that feeling. You could be right. But be open to all the signs around you.

You’ll learn how easy this can be by joining me at my upcoming workshop. Early bird rates end soon. Are you open to gaining new perspective?

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