Almost a year ago, I wrote a three-part series on big picture thinking versus detail-orientation. This delineation is just one way of categorizing the way we think, the way we solve problems, and how we go about getting work done. Big picture thinkers tend to be creative, strategic, and visionary, while the detail-oriented are conscientious, planful, and exacting. As a quick reference, here are the links to the previous posts on this topic:
In the workplace there is often a clash between the big picture person and the detail-oriented person. While the two styles are very complementary and can work together quite well (i.e., one’s strengths fill in for the weaknesses of the other), they often have trouble communicating with each other. So it is no surprise that I continue to receive feedback on this topic from time to time; people often want to be more like who they are not.
We, especially the high-achieving among us, tend to curse our weaknesses and underappreciate our strengths. On a very basic level, this is appropriate to do. If you are plainly letting things fall through the cracks (e.g., you tell your boss you will give him an update at the end of the day and you forget to do so), you clearly need a better personal organization system. However, equally as often the problem is not that you need to become more detail-oriented, but that you need to communicate in a more detailed manner.
This is good news; changing your communication style is doable. What you want to do is adapt your communication style to fit your boss’s preference. When you are the big picture thinker, and your boss is more detail-oriented, “what happens is you say to your boss, I’ve got it, but then your boss wants to see all the spreadsheets and project plans. He is thinking about way more detail than you are, even though you are the one doing the work” writes Patty Azzarello on TLNT.
This situation feels backwards of how things should be and thus can be quite frustrating. Here are tips, adapted from the article, on how to deal with such a dilemma:
Communicating in a manner that is congruent with the way that your boss thinks is a way to be more productive, have more relevant conversations, and more or less sound brilliant when it matters most.