Small Potatoes

potatoesAn important trait of good leadership is the ability to determine the big issues that need our best energy.  That doesn’t mean we aren’t continually preoccupied with small ones, but the ability to focus our major attention and that of our teams on the bigger needs stops us from getting bogged down with unhelpful detail.

Leaders have to be visionaries and will ideally empower the right people to focus on the right tasks so that the details more or less take care of themselves.  Therefore, threats to such streamlining need a leader’s insight.  Focusing on conflict, disunity or underperformance is not just about addressing individual issues, but underlying causes.  Likewise, directional change or a refocus may require many skills with plenty of encouragement, but will also need the perceptive ability to see the big picture beyond the detail.

So, knowing what the ‘small potatoes’ are on one’s plate is a key to determining that these won’t take a majority focus.  Sheer work that must be done can be a problem if it distracts a leader from necessary strategising and discussion, so thinking up solutions or alternatives is essential.  Clarifying team roles and directing outcomes-based performance can also minimise the classic problem of people looking at the ‘speck’ in a leader’s eye, rather than the ‘log’ in their own (Matthew 7:3). If unchecked, this scenario can deflate morale, cause a leader to second guess what has been known to bring success, and can cause a leader to miss catching the next big wave.  Knowing team members’ motivations and interests, too, can save them from their distractions and can defuse the common problem of conflict that happens when people all mean well but don’t see eye to eye. None of this means that leaders are perfect and that team members can’t shine, but it is easy for people to overreach beyond the bounds of their experience or their responsibility so as to undermine authority and team performance with overemphasised opinion.

One of the best ways that leaders bring alignment to their teams is to paint a clear and constant picture of present realities vs. future possibilities.  Visioning a preferable tomorrow creates an urgency for right roles, legitimises team creativity and focuses team performance on doing the right things and then doing them right.  This, in turn, helps to sustain vital momentum. It keeps the small potatoes clearly identifiable and shows up the lunacy of anyone ever choking on them!

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