“What are the most important things that a leader can do?”
— Wondering in Wichita
This is part two of answering Wondering in Wichita’s question about the most important things a leader can do. In our last Best Boss Minute we talked about the importance of defining reality. Today we’re going to talk about the importance, for you as a leader, to stay in the mindset and perspective of systems, systems, systems.
So, what do I mean by systems? We tend to get caught up in the day-to-day minutia. It’s that old Stephen Covey quadrant one kind of activity – everything is urgent and important. And we lose sight of what the bigger picture looks like. It’s important that you stay in a systems perspective, looking at how things are interconnected, the bigger picture.
How do you do that? The first thing is I want you to go to the balcony. In other words, when you feel yourself being pulled into the minutiae of day-to-day – this might be something you do every morning – breathe into a bigger picture. Think about the different things that you need to get done and ask yourself … So what happens when we work on that? And expand out so that in some ways you start to backward engineer your day and your activities. Start with the big picture, and then move in strategically on the different places that make the biggest difference.
The second is to find what I call a Jenga piece. If you ever play the game Jenga, you know there are all these blocks on top of one another. You pull out one or two that make the biggest difference. That’s what I want you to think about when you’re thinking about making a change to a system. And systems are everything, right? They’re how people relate to each other. They’re also how the work gets done. I want you to take a broad view of what systems are and figure out the one or two things you can do that will make the biggest difference, that will have the greatest impact on that system. The mistake we often make is to start nibbling around the edges of a system and not really take advantage of finding the strategic places where we can make the biggest difference.
And number three is when you’re thinking about the system and the changes you’ll make, finish playing the movie. In other words, think about what if I were to do this one thing to make this one change what might happen. So let’s say the system you’re looking at is the idea of whether or not to have your people go hybrid in their work environment. That’s a big system, right? It involves a lot of moving pieces to figure out how that will work.
So first, get that system’s perspective. Go to the balcony. Think about the larger picture that you have to deal with. Not only all the people but all of the technicalities that need to happen. Now, find the Jenga piece. Find the little things that will make the biggest difference. Maybe it’s not doing focus groups. Maybe it’s more about experimenting – setting up a limited time where you experiment with going hybrid. But find that one activity that will make the biggest difference. And then finish playing the movie. So if you do that one thing, what will happen because of that? If we try this experiment of moving to a hybrid, what will happen because of that? We may have people that will love it. We may have people that hate it. What will we do because of that? So finish playing out the movie for the changes that you want to make in your system.