Do you sometimes feel as if you’re the only one who sees the “solution?”
Do you get frustrated when your superiors seem to ignore or discount your input?
Do you wish you could influence your organization but no one seem to listen to you?
Do you judge others for their obtuseness or lack of imagination?
Some of us can easily answer yes to one or more of the above questions. Our answer may also be accompanied by feelings of anger and frustration. In fact our inner judge may also be accusing us of just being a jerk, pushing too hard, too ambitious. But maybe something else is operating.
We may simply have a facility few others have of seeing “forest for the trees”, the BIG PICTURE. Many people survive by focusing on the immediate item, issue, problem, person, or idea that is right in front of their face. In fact they may also be very comfortable avoiding the big picture.
Those who do not choose to look at the big picture are often very effective in “doing their job”. Supervisors love them as “company” people. They are great to have on board, especially for less-enlightened hierarchies that prefer loyalty over creativity in their organizations. But what if you’re not one of them?
If we go public with our perception of the big picture, we may receive one or more of the following labels: trouble-maker, maverick, swimmer-against-the-tide, pain in the butt, disloyal, disgruntled, perfectionist, idealist, dreamer, and even megalomaniac. Those who see the big picture may understand the long-term history of the organization. They may perceive how the parts are related to the whole, recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the members, tell the truth about what’s really going on, and attempt to change the “system.”
I’ve had to admit that seeing the big picture can be just one of several valid perspectives. Much has to do with the circumstances we find ourselves in. When an organization or a population is in crisis the big picture often becomes irrelevant in favor of “quick fixes”. We see this played out constantly in our federal government and in families in trouble. It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees when a crisis sucks the energy from everyone.
I’ve found that the first step I need to take is a step back, to look at how the majority are viewing the local landscape. If their reaction is mainly to focus on each tree and ignore the bigger forest I have three choices: 1.) I can buck the tide and try my best to remind others of the reasons for the organization’s existence, demand to be heard, and suggest new ideas; 2.) I can bide my time and wait for a strategic moment to push forward; or 3.) I can leave the organization if their ongoing perspective is not one I can subscribe to long-term.
I have also discovered that getting judgmental and angry over the situation does not help me. I have needed to jettison organizations I loved in order to find a different path for myself so that I can live with myself, knowing I’ve done all I can. But foremost, I also need to take care of myself, knowing that my life is more important than the maintenance of any group or organization.
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