Missing the forest for the trees

Pic courtesy: Freepik

Last week Twitter exploded over a minute observation made by Tom Newton Dunn, the chief political commentator @TimeRadio. His tweet on the missing diet coke button from President Biden’s office (former US President Donald Trump often used it to ask for Diet Coke) had many in splits, with even PepsiCo joining the fun with a repartee – ‘Maybe he is more of a Pepsi kind of guy.’

The number of retweets, responses and likes this tweet garnered, it was as though a national calamity had taken place! This is a classic example of how trivia can occupy so much space that one loses sight of the big picture. Politics is a hotbed of such situations and the media is equally hand-in-glove here when it trivialises a minor incident and steers a debate/discussion on a subject that perhaps could have died a natural death if only one had let it be.

In our professional journey as well, it is very easy for us to lose sight of the forest and instead remain fixated on the trees. Trivia has the tendency to consume our thoughts and even give us stress! The inability to connect dots and keep the final goal always in sight can create inefficiencies and lead to poor outcomes.

Mastering the art of never losing sight of the ultimate goal does not happen in a day. All skills need time to be learnt and it is practice that makes one competent. Communications professionals, whether in the PR industry or within a corporate need to work their strategies based on their organisation’s big picture. The yearly content calendar that is so ubiquitous in our profession has its fundamentals rooted in the overarching business goals of the organisation. Losing sight of them can skew the communications strategy and cause frustrations and distrust within teams.

Staying focused and attentive towards the ultimate objective therefore becomes paramount.

Begin by observing mentors/leaders/colleagues whom you look up to and admire. Notice the words they chose, the way they articulate their thoughts. Ask yourself whether you are able to clearly envision the goal post during the conversation. Observe closely.

As a next step, turn the observation lens on yourself. Become aware of your thoughts in a decision-making situation. When you collaborate with a cross-functional team, are the solutions driven by a long-term impact or are they focused on quick, short term gains? Do you react or do you respond? How often do you let your ego take the center stage so that you don’t feel left out? Fine-tune your empathy skills so that you can take in different perspectives. Learn to detach yourself and develop an ‘outside-in’ perspective to find your way through tricky situations and difficult conversations.

Strong visualisation often helps bring clarity. Imagine you are on a mountain top. Look all around and imbibe what you see. Now, look down. What do you notice? Do you see the roads that you had passed by but never actually seen? What about the tress? The lake that you missed. The houses with crooked windows that you wished that you had stopped to look at…as you stay focused, things become clearer and your mind races to find new solutions and different ways to reach the top.

But then, not all of us can visualise. Well, if you are a writer, write down your goals and break them up into doable tasks. Resolve to stay on track and every now and then, hit the pause button to reflect and improvise on the next steps. This way you ensure you have your objectives engraved in your mind.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the way leadership responded to it is a classic example of how leaders never lost sight of the final end objective – to ensure colleagues are safe. Communications played a focal role in this crisis and emerged victorious wherever it stayed steadfast on stating the truth and taking a long-term safe view.

Cultivate the art of viewing the big picture on a regular basis – it will provide solutions not only for the present but also for the future.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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