The role of business leader requires great dexterity, juggling the strategic intent of long-term success with the immediate pressures of today’s priorities.
Throw in a seismic shift in the landscape we inhabit and the process of leading change may make the juggling more challenging, observes Stewart Barnes, Managing Director of QuoLux, in his latest article in the series Leading Change in a post-Brexit world.
“Leaders must be adept at switching between the ‘helicopter’ view, the big picture, and the ‘microscope’ of individual tasks and responsibilities,” says Barnes.
“As we adjust our field of vision, we move from the global perspective of international markets and political machinations, to industry reactions and fluctuations, into a view across the whole company’s performance, what’s happening at a department or division level, within specific teams, and then to the individual – ourselves or those close to us – and the pressures that might affect us at work and home.”
When there’s significant change creating disruption through the ups and downs of the Change Curve (see /campaigns/brexit) it’s easy to get side-tracked at either end of the Helicopter-Microscope continuum, according to Barnes.
“The daily maelstrom of news, opinion, commentary and speculation can be absorbing but gives us little indication at this stage of future trading conditions, so keep informed but don’t allow yourself to get lost in the macro perspective.
“Equally, now’s not the time to have your head down, so immersed in a single challenge – the launch of a new product, dealing with a testing individual, or overseeing the installation of a new system – that you lose sight of what’s happening with your people, your customers, competitors and the wider world.
“When we first begin working with owner-managers on the LEAD programme, it’s very common for them to be immersed in day-to-day activities and to give very little time to strategic development – this is a pattern replicated widely in research among SMEs.
“Differentiating between the urgent tasks and the important ones requires us to move freely up and down through our field of vision, to get a balanced perspective.”
Even when a leader is conscious of the need to spend most of their time working on the strategic development of their business, extraordinary times can knock them out of their rhythm, acknowledges Barnes.
“If you need to diarise time to spend ‘on’ the business, rather than being ‘in’ the business, then that’s a good way of getting into a routine.
“Spend this time looking forward. How might the threat of change post-Brexit become an opportunity for your business? Consider the strategies and systems you could introduce – or strengthen – to establish an innovative culture where adapting to future changes in markets or regulations becomes part of your DNA.”
QuoLux sponsors the Lifetime Achievement category in the Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen Business Awards.