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Saturday, October 29, 2020

Right Perspective

Authors are always complaining about "short term thinking" and criticizing organizations for failing to take a "strategic viewpoint." This is mostly hogwash. If everyone walks about staring at the far horizon, they'll trip over their feet. Some demands are short term, and "strategic" is one of those buzzwords that has virtually no meaning left. Neither long-term nor short-term are better in themselves. What matters is being able to decide which is appropriate in a specific circumstance. We also need to restore some meaning to overused words like tactical and strategic. Forget about time scales and think instead about perspective and detail.

A key decision for Slow Leaders is to choose the correct amount of detail they need to be involved in. Getting this wrong causes waste of time and effort. If you need to be aware of fine detail, but you rush it and skim over only the broadest elements, chances are the project will go wrong. You'll not only have to go back over the detail you skimped, but it will take even longer because you'll also need to correct mistakes.

Of course, if you're the type who spends all your time down in the weeds on just about every job, you'll be overworked, harassed and hated by every subordinate. Part of showing trust is the readiness to stand back and let others get on with handling work for you. High-speed leaders typically stick to either the weeds or the mountain tops. They don't allow themselves time to choose the correct perspective. They're in too much of a rush. Habit takes the place of judgment.

The obsessive, "I know you can't do anything right without me" types hold everyone up while they insist on being involved with every detail. Since they're chronically overworked as a result, this can stop progress for days or weeks until they can get to it. Despite this, they work eighteen hour days checking and reworking what others have done before. Why? Because they're terrified they may not be needed if others believe they can do the work without them.

The prima donna, "I'm above all of that" types refuse to handle — or even show interest in — anything that smacks of detail. They wave it away with a handful of strategic position papers. Since they can't be bothered to understand what others need, their instructions are usually vague and laced with the latest jargon. No one knows what they want, so lots of futile work is done while subordinates try to guess. Why do they do this? Because they're obsessed with proving they're truly top executive material. Their actions, of course, prove the opposite, which is why they keep trying to maintain the strategic smokescreen.

Slow Leaders choose. They can handle detail or broad visions, as required. They take time to discover what others need to get the job done right. They check people know what to do, and have the information and resources they need, then let them get on with it. As a result, the work gets done right first time, saving everyone effort and stress. As so often, slow turns out to be the real fast.

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