A Visionary's Trip - Through the Weeds

I was sitting on the beach with my wife during our annual summer vacation when she asked me, “What is it you see when you stare straight ahead at the ocean”? Without hesitation, I remarked, “The edge where the sky meets the ocean”. I returned the question to her and her response was markedly different with more detail, “The waves as they get closer, looks like liquid glass”.

I thought about this for a bit and it dawned on me, this is how she and I view everything. At home, we are surrounded by acres of wooded land and natural beauty. I am always drawn to the greenery and mass of trees while she can pull beauty out of each flower or weed for that matter. It then occurred to me, this is what makes us so compatible – a great team if you will. I have always focused on the big picture and she has complimented this visionary outlook with the much needed details to drive our personal decision making.

This is what makes an organization successful in the business world. A combination of strategists and big picture thinkers along with a talent base of folks that love mining the details is critical to the long term success a company might enjoy.

I used to think I wanted my entire team to be big picture thinkers and savvy strategists but am now the wiser due to a host of professional and personal experiences.

Imagine an organization run entirely by visionaries or tactical experts. I bet those leadership meetings would be powerfully boring not to mention a constant struggle to maintain mediocrity at best; can’t be done, at least not successfully.

It takes a mix of talent at the leadership level to breed success. I firmly believe a visionary has to sit at the top but her/his leadership team had better be a mix of those who have an eye for the details, don’t mind getting into the weeds and those that like to look over the horizon through a visionary lens.

The takeaway from my personal aha moment began as a reflection on our family and the last twenty years. If we were a professional organization, I would consider us a success thus far however it has not been without struggle, ups and downs, risks and rewards and constructive conflict. My wife and I provide strong leadership in the decision making process, it is that process which combines the vision with the weeds – they are both critical to success.

As you look to build out your leadership team and a sustainable strategic plan, it is important to leverage your visionary and tactical thinkers appropriately with care not to alienate either.

Finally, I used to think my lack of wanting to get in the weeds was a weakness. I also considered those that could not look beyond a spreadsheet or process map as a faulty trait. What I came to learn over time was simply this, as an organization you need this combination but as an individual you don’t have to possess both. If you are tactically oriented, you have to be open to and understand the strategy. If you are the visionary, you have to be able to walk through the weeds once in a while.

As the lifeguard gathered up the umbrellas and chairs and families began to make their way off the beach, I took one last look at the ocean behind me – it was amazing to see the liquid glass appearance my wife had referenced earlier. It was refreshing to get a nice view from the weeds.