Like most entrepreneurs I consider myself a big picture thinker. In fact, I used to say things like, “don’t bother me with details”. In Steven Shussler’s book, It’s a Jungle in There, he says, “the truly successful entrepreneur has to have what has been called the ‘helicopter view’: the ability to gain enough mental altitude to see the big picture while retaining the ability to descend, hover, and see the details, too” (p.61). This is a very descriptive analogy for the flexibility needed to both dream up a concept and execute the vision. I agree with this balance between the big picture and detailed execution. And also, I have seen leaders who “crash their helicopter” when hovering too low. While this section of the book is talking about “Product”, for many of us the product of our labor is knowledge or service through consulting. While Shussler is speaking of product, my mind jumps ahead to the section on people.
Well intentioned business owners and leaders can run the risk of stifling their teams by micromanaging day-to-day work. Should we set high expectations? Yes. Should we all pick up trash if we see it in our work environment? Yes. Should we write detailed work instructions and plan-o-grams for every project? No!
I strongly believe that as a leader, it’s my job to both liberate the means and define the ends of a project and let my team fill in the details. Their path to success is dependent on their ability to use their unique blend of strengths in accomplishing the goal. As I mature as a leader, I have grown to see that my desire to be delightfully oblivious to details (once trusted to someone else) is not because I don’t care. Rather, I care deeply and I do have an ability to “hover low” and see every single step. My team members neither grow nor develop if I “hover”.
While I agree that an entrepreneur needs to be aware and attentive to the details of their business, that awareness should be controlled as to not impede or micro-manage the work of others. There is a strong business case for a strengths based approach.
To the entrepreneur who is still managing their business alone: it is your job to worry about the micro and the macro. For the small business owners and entrepreneurs with teammates or direct reports: it’s your job to learn the strengths of your team and give up a little control of the details if you want your team to be engaged and successful.
“As we look into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”– Bill Gates