Leaders and houses need to be holistic. Dictionary.com defines holistic like this: “the theory that whole entities, as fundamental components of reality, have an existence other than as the mere sum of their parts.”
I like to think of this more simply, as in “the bigger picture.” Or, you could consider it as embracing the bigger flow of things, so that as a leader you aren’t making decisions in a vacuum.
When we bought our house recently, one consideration was that we knew we’d have regular guests. (And sometimes long-term guests, but that is another story). This creates the need for a house with a great overall flow, for entertaining, but separateness, for the longer-term situations. And, we needed a little extra space. We had to look past the smaller details to be sure the long term use would still work. And, the sum of the parts had to work together well. We are blessed; we found that house after a long search. And we’re already sharing it.
As leaders, we need to look beyond the parts and pieces sometimes and be sure we see the effect we are having on the whole company. Will our decision today have a ripple effect tomorrow? Are others going to be affected by the moves we make? Will a termination in one department have impact on another? How will the decisions be viewed both internally and externally? Have we considered upcoming changes in our industry? Our company? Our personal lives? How will those things impact the decisions we make today? Be sure the puzzle pieces fit.
Instead of thinking how those things will impact our decisions, let’s think about how our decisions affect those things: the company, its people, the industry, even the world. That is the moment we move to holistic thinking. We stop considering only how we are affected in our world and begin to consider our effect on the world around us, beyond our walls. How does your industry move the world? I think it does! The independent business person in this country employs more people, moves more money and has created more innovation than any one large corporation ever did. Now, I’m not bashing big business or mega corporations. Thank God they also create employment and pay taxes. But I digress…your way of thinking should include this bigger, holistic idea that what you do does matter to the rest of the world.
A major part of this process needs to be to take a minute and think - holistically! In many of my articles and keynotes I talk about slowing down to think. This is what gives you time to look over the top of your desk and study carefully the impact of your decisions. Some decisions have to be made quickly, but that doesn’t mean all the proper preparation can’t be in place so that you can make a good decision in a short time. This is why foundations are so important. If you have all the fundamental, foundational information and structures in place, if data flow is continuous and well managed, if you are getting the right updates and keeping a close tab on things, you can move much more quickly when it is truly needed. That means, though, that you have to take the time to get those structures in place when you have the time, and then you must make the time to chip away at the maintenance of the foundation on a regular schedule.
However, every decision won’t make or break the company if you pause to think. We are simply so trained to think that everything must happen immediately that we rush through things even when it is not needed. We say things like “I don’t have time for a time management class.” I’ve heard that one a lot! (If you are paying attention to the less frequent timing of my articles you’ll see that we can’t always practice what we preach. What was that line about the shoemaker’s kids not having any shoes?!)
Still, turning off the noise, the bell on the email, Facebook, Twitter, etc…even putting away the video games, just for ten minutes a day to think isn’t so impossible. What is your impact on the world? What would it take to really know the answer to that question for yourself, your firm, your industry? Take the challenge and find out!