• Shohreh R Aftahi, PhD

How Can You Actually Focus on the Big Picture?



In my previous post, ‘Entrepreneurial Success Factor’, I talked about the three perspectives that leaders must consider in business, with an emphasis on the leadership lens. In this article, I am introducing the pitfalls of macro-management and what it means to the organization. There are several definitions for ‘macro-management’; for the sake of this conversation, let’s define ‘macro-management’ as managing the strategic questions rather than tactical ones.

Being strategic ultimately boils down to focusing on the big picture and functioning at the macro level with purpose, determination, and discipline around strategic questions facing the organization. Simultaneously, the rest of the team is functioning at the micro level, focusing on the implementation of said strategic decisions. Leaders that function at the macro level are focused on questions like:

  • What is the purpose of the organization and why does it exist?

  • What are the product offerings and how/why do the offerings deliver value to customers? What is the value proposition?

  • What is the outcome for the organization, stakeholders and shareholders? What are the critical metrics by which success will be measured and assessed?

  • What is the internal culture of the company and how do people behave toward customers, other stakeholders, and one another?

While most leaders find these questions both pertinent and relevant to their organizational success, many don’t spend enough time and effort on identifying clear answers, leaving their teams unable to execute and deliver on the results.

Over the past decade, leadership studies have focused on collaboration rather than prescriptive engagement between leaders and their teams. While I agree, the conversation has become convoluted. The idea is that employees will be empowered through collaboration and therefore, more engaged. Via prescriptive communication from leaders, it is pivotal for teams to clearly understand the answers to key strategy questions as collaborative efforts begin during execution planning and implementation.

This holds true for all organizations regardless of size. Whether you have a private practice, a small business with a few employees, or a multi-billion dollar organization, this rule remains the same. That being said, the complexity of larger organizations often presents more challenges for leaders when it comes to maneuvering the path of prescriptive communication and employee engagement.

The question is: why would any leader not focus their attention on bringing clarity to these significant strategic points? Often times the answer can be summed up as a lack of time. The main reason leaders do not have enough time is that they are too involved in granular tactics and being engaged at the micro level. One of the critical success factors as a leader is having the ability to prioritize and focus on only the most important things, and delegate the rest. And that’s where it falls apart for those leaders that micro-manage. In short, they are consumed by looking at their business through the employee or manager lens.

Making time for such macro questions is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It cannot be delegated; it is not an annual task that is visited at the strategy meeting offsite. It must be a part of the routine.

Once you’ve set aside time on a regular basis to wrestle with these questions, how can you come up with the best possible answers, and refine those answers? Here are some tips from those I’ve seen do it well:

  1. Consider the consequences:

  • Consider the consequences of everything you choose you want to do, and articulate the ones you cannot do. This forces you to think through the consequences of these options by thinking about what the trade-offs are for each choice.

  1. Assume you have no budget

  • Assuming you have no money, you tend to be very strategic in what you spend your money on. When money is no object, you want everything and often regardless of its importance, you want it because you can. Additionally, when we want everything, we create competing priorities that will only challenge our resources and create confusion.

  1. Invite collaboration and feedback from others

  • It doesn’t matter if these people are internal or external, what is important is that they are willing to challenge you and give you perspectives that no one else would. These networks of strategy partners are vital to your process; they can help you answer questions like why something would or would not work, offering you different perspectives to consider.

  1. Consideration should include the macro and micro levels simultaneously.

  • The most successful leader can view the organization in its totality. Meaning, although they function at the macro level, they can go down to the micro level to understand the consequences of their decisions from a tactical perspective without ‘functioning’ at that level. They can simply scan the organization across all levels to get all of the necessary information to make the most appropriate decision.

Having the ability to lead in such a way will produce empowered managers and employees that are engaged and feel that they are winning. The leader’s experience, however, wins greater. Not only do they see results and experience growth, but their increased capacity efficiencies also afford them the ability to put their time and effort towards leading their teams and planning for future growth.


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