An organization’s leader sits at the “top” of the organization chart, so he or she must have all the necessary information for decision-making, right? Not really. More often than not, the information that comes to leaders is highly filtered and incomplete. If you’re one of those leaders, should you just accept this as inevitable? Or can you do something about it?
It’s possible to become a less isolated, better informed leader. In Decisive, Chip and Dan Heath describe a practice that they call “zoom out, zoom in.” “Zoom out” refers to stepping back to see the big picture. “Zoom in” occurs when a leader takes a deep dive, looking at the details to get a more granular understanding of a situation.
According to the Heath brothers, Franklin D. Roosevelt was a master of zooming in. He talked to people several layers below him in the administration so that he could hear information directly. Because he encouraged Americans to send letters to the White House, he received 5,000 to 8,000 pieces of mail a day. Roosevelt’s staff categorized the responses, but the president also personally read a sample of the letters to understand the nuances that the statistics couldn’t reveal.
Whether you’re in a church or ministry or non-profit, I know that your days are full. You barely have time to meet with direct reports and key leaders. It’s helpful to have others who gather information and give you the bullets or a 1-page executive summary. But what are you missing when you do that?
Think about it this way. Do you have a good sense of the morale of the staff or congregation that you’re leading? Do you know whether they truly understand the vision? And if so, are they fully supportive of it, or just showing up? Can you name what they’re most anxious about as they look to the future of your church or ministry?
If you can’t answer these questions, you may want zoom in. Not to micromanage, but to learn. It will take time, and you’ll need to listen well (a skill that eludes too many leaders). But in the end, you’ll be able to lead more effectively and with more confidence.
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