Hi everyone,

[b]I could use some ideas on how to focus more on the big picture and less on details. [/b]

Sleepless night. You know when you figure out that the reason you don't like something about your boss's management style is that it highlights your own deficiencies? Yeah.

I really enjoyed working with my former manager, a big-picture type. Our styles were complementary. She'd get a big idea, steer me in the right direction, and let me deal with details. If I got bogged down, I could count on her for perspective. She really gets things done, starts new initiatives, sometimes drops balls or misses important details. She has a family, hobbies, a life. She doesn't work much overtime. Her career is moving forward, and fast.

My new manager is a details person, and I believe it's a much less effective approach. I can see her spending a lot of time on things that should be ignored or delegated, and dropping balls that are much more important. (To be fair, her admin support is monumentally incompetent.) She works twelve hour days and is chronically stressed and behind on things. I'm reluctant to ask for her input on projects, because she'll dive into details and won't keep the big goals/perspectives in mind.

I see this flaw in myself at times. Okay, often. Though you wouldn't know it from my DISC profile, I fit the bill for a high C - "more data" is my middle name. I do not like to move ahead with things until I feel sure.

So, how do you do it, you Big Picture types?

(It occurs to me Big Picture people probably stopped reading after the first line. Thank M&M for the BLUF concept!)

jhack's picture

R, it might help if you provided more detail about your industry and role. (send me a PM if you wish).

Try these things:

1. Network (lucky you, you're a high I). People at or above your bosses level, especially. Outside your team: Sales, Marketing, Operations, etc. Find out what their pressing issues are. Do lunch.
2. Schedule time each week to read your company's PR releases, 10K or 10Q, other communications.
3. subscribe to Google alerts on your company, competitors, and industry.
4. Find out what your boss's boss's goals / targets are. Schedule time each Monday morning to review them, and how your activities support them.


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

John always has good advice.

I would also suggest GTD - "Getting Things Done" by David Allen. There's a lot of content in there about how to pull back and get a bigger picture.

sholden's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

John & Will have some good suggestions. Stephen Covey also has some resources in this area. Especially with his "End In Mind" habit.

I also ran across this PDF that might be a good start:

Tactical Management: The Big Picture

I love to try to get my big picture thinking into a focus on the end in mind.

The more you can do that, I think the more successful you'll be.


bflynn's picture

Delegate. While you can never get rid of the responsibility, you can share responsibility for the details with someone you trust. When you delegate to them, your trust in them will allow you to ease out of the details.

Also, use DISC to help make your change. You know you focus on data now. Which DISC profile do you think would be more effective? High-D? High-I? Then look up the behaviors of those profiles and figure out ways that you can force yourself to practice those behaviors. For example, if you want to practice high-I behaviors, attend a social function with a goal to approach and meet five different people. To some extent, you are what you pretend to be, so this will help you focus less on data.


rthibode's picture

You guys are great, thank you so much!

I'm a supervisor with authority to plan & execute my part of three programs, full hiring authority, but no budget responsibility. I have more staff than my bosses, but they are part time, so they don't "count" for anything so I can't be called manager. My only "real" DR is my admin, whom I share with another supervisor.

You've affirmed some things I'm already doing, reminded my of some things I need to get back to doing, and introduced some new ideas too.

Already doing:
-networking (Ctrl Shift K has me in touch with dozens of former staff)
-reading about my sector & our organization within that

Need to get back to:
- discover boss's boss's goals and review weekly to assess how I support them.
- GTD - I'm doing it, but only sort of, and I've especially neglected the big picture stuff. Seems to require so much speculation about the future (without data!)

New/need to work on:
-networking (I need to shift to higher levels to be more effective)
-tactical management
-Covey's "end in mind"
-use DISC to identify successful behaviours to emulate

Thanks again everyone!

kklogic's picture

This thread is refreshing. As a big-picture thinker, I've always thought I was defective for having trouble drilling down more naturally. It's good to know that detail folks want to go the other way.

I highly suggest you look into StrenghsFinder. It's really helped our office pair up folks who are detail-oriented with bigger-picture folks -- but on a much more specific level than DISC allows for.

You might also enjoy mind-mapping. If you create a list of the details -- the big picture may emerge for you (much like it allows me to do the opposite).

rthibode's picture

Thanks kklogic! I've made a note to check out StrengthsFinder as soon as I return from vacation.

"Enjoy" is an odd term to apply to mind-mapping, for someone like me. It's like creating outlines -- I can do it, just as soon as the rest of the document's written. It is a good stretch and I do try as often as I can stand it. I encourage my directs to use them, so I kind of have to.

Yesterday, I had a 90-minute meeting with one of my DR's to plan an upcoming training session. She's a details person like me, and it was REALLY fun AND really productive thinking with her. And yes, we did create an outline in the last 10 minutes!

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

I think I may have missed the thrust of this post, but I'll add my two cents nonetheless.

When I work with managers wanting more big picture stuff, I ask three questions:

1. Please define what you do now that you see as "small picture." I do this to make sure that our terms are clear.

2. Please define something that you see as big picture. (same reason as above).

3. What are your manager's goals, and your manager's manager's goals? (This IS the closest proxy for the big picture I know of that is KNOWABLE.)

This is a future cast, btw.