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Flying high.

Flying has always been exciting for our family. During a trip to New England one summer, our young children were awestruck with the view from the plane window On this clear, sunny day, our 6-year old daughter Kia, excitedly peered out the window. Not long after take-off she remarked, "Look at all those toy houses and cars down there." My wife smiled as she explained that those are not toys but real houses and cars. To which Kia responded: "If they were real, they would be bigger."

How different the view is when flying high. It's this overview of roads and rivers, mountains and valleys, cities and farms that creates a picture quite different than seen from the ground. Yes, big things get smaller, but the view becomes unobstructed. Our eyes can focus on a much larger and overall picture of the landscape than the Limited view from the ground.

The facilitator at our last strategic planning retreat gave us the following advice: Fly at 60,000 feet. That is, keep the board room focus on issues that require a broader view and let management concentrate on the lower levels--besides, that's their job.

Do you recall the first pictures of earth from space? Truly amazing--it gave us a completely different perspective of our earth. The surroundings that seemed so large and powerful became minute in the perspective of the whole world picture. Ground level views can do that-distorting the significance within the realm of the overall picture.

We have all been part of a discussion in the board room where we have gotten down on the ground in the weeds. Usually it's a very counter-productive exercise. For example, does it really matter if the office printer is this brand or that brand? Certainly, this is not an issue that will have much of an impact, if any, on our mission to provide reliable and cost-effective electricity to our customers.

As directors we are charged to set the mission of our organization and to oversee its overall condition and performance. We hire a manager to execute our plan and provide funding to procure resources to accomplish it. To do that effectively requires a vision of the landscape that can see beyond the ground obstructions. Being too close to the ground just clouds the view.

Can you imagine General Eisenhower directing the Normandy invasion from one of beaches? It would have been disaster. Instead, he and his staff set the mission and then delegated their subordinates to plan and execute the details of the invasion. Eisenhower gave the order to go and then stood aside to let his forces do their job. He did not relinquish the responsibility of this action but did lead his troops by letting them do their job. Viewing the invasion from a higher perspective allowed Eisenhower to make the difficult decisions necessary for success.

One of the hardest things for people in leadership positions to do is to delegate authority and then allow the subordinates to do their job. We set the mission and provide the necessary resources. Then we should step aside and turn the execution of the plan over to the management team to get it done.

As directors, it is incumbent that we keep our focus at the 60,000-foot level. Let the management team handle the lower levels. FLYING HIGH in the boardroom gives us a much better view than on the ground.

Bruce Martinson serves as a director for Sioux Valley Electric of Colman, SD. He also chairs Sioux Valley Wireless, a wireless internet subsidiary of SVE. Bruce has a commodity brokers business that focuses on managing marketing risk for agriculture producers.
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Title Annotation:In the Boardroom
Author:Martinson, Bruce
Publication:Management Quarterly
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2010
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