Yesterday we inaugurated a new president who, among other things, is a great career role model. President Obama is not only a self-made man—focused, persistent, dedicated, and hardworking—he also looks at the big picture. It's a trait we would all do well to emulate.
Why? Because big-picture people are more effective at their work and they enjoy it more. Too many of us get bogged down in the minutiae of life on the job. Too few of us understand our professional roles in the overall scheme of things.
But the good news is that you can train yourself to be a big-picture person. Your work will be more rewarding, and you will be a vastly more valuable employee if you do these two things:
- Study your industry as if you were an outsider. Read business magazines, newspapers, books, and blogs. Google for consumer complaints. Are groups opposed to your industry? Find out why. Whatever you do, don't depend solely on inside sources for information about the company.
- Find and talk to the people who actually create or manufacture whatever product or service your company provides. You may find that they seem to speak another language. Befriend them. Ask questions until you understand the answers. This is fascinating—and fun.
When you think you're ready, try explaining to a 12-year-old what your company does. If you can do it in less than a minute, you've got a good handle on the big picture. Then your brain will be in the place where you can solve problems and dream up innovations—making you an invaluable member of your company's team. Which has to be good.
Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009 (but available now for pre order at Amazon!). She blogs at karenburnsworkinggirl.com .