It’s easy to assume that the more senior you get in an organization, the more you can see the whole.
This is only partially true.
It’s true that you have more access to a facsimile of the whole, whether through dashboards of KPIs or access to other senior people who run major functions.
But all these inputs are at best proxies for what’s really going on. While they serve as early warning indicators that can tell you where to dig deeper, they often lack texture, nuance, and context, and are at best a fuzzy representation of the whole.
This is why it’s doubly important, no matter where you sit in an organization, to let go of the notion that the senior folks “just know more stuff” and, therefore, that they don’t have much to learn from or don’t need to hear from you.
The reality is each of us sees our own small, unique part of the elephant, and beyond that, we all have massive blind spots.
For any of us to truly understand the whole, we must travel far and wide, within and outside our organization, and hear what everyone has to say.
And we must engender a company culture that encourages everyone to speak up and share what they see. This culture must be reinforced daily—in how 1-on-1s and larger meetings happen, in what is said in which Slack threads, in how questions are asked and answered. The lifeblood of this culture is people who model brave behavior, sharing the important details early and often.
It’s so tempting to paint the pretty picture of what’s going on in our little neck of the woods, to assume that “nothing to see here” is the right, safe message.
Picture, instead, the power of describing the salient details, the bits that only you know, and partnering to connect that up with the whole.
Only together can we see the whole elephant.