Leadership — Develop an eye for the big picture

How neglecting some things in your business pays off

Here’s the deal; big picture thinking is a core leadership competency. Yes, as a leader, you must see the forest and let others be concerned about the trees.

Savvy construction leaders focus more on steering long-range objectives, providing inspiration, and motivating others. They are likely to:

  • Anticipate opportunities, contingencies, and potential problems
  • See idea, theory, and concept connections
  • Understand people networks and relationships
  • Discern and make use of data
  • Avoid or (at least) reduce discord
  • Recognize associates, collaborators, and competitors
  • Develop the skill of situational awareness

Therefore, all the minor things, the “details,” are left to others. Experienced leaders know how to delegate, designate, automate, or eliminate.

By giving your team the opportunity to take care of the details you gain more time for effectively leading.

A few examples of big picture thinkers

According to Rowan Bayne, author of “Psychological Types At Work,” about twenty-five percent of the population are big picture thinkers.

Wow, not a huge group. Here are a few examples you’ll recognize.

  • George Washington
  • Winston Churchill
  • Steve Jobs
  • Sandra Day O’Connor
  • Aristotle
  • Jeff Bezos
  • Warren Buffett
  • Mark Cuban
  • Elon Musk

Big pictures and details

While some have a natural tendency to see the big picture others are more likely to focus on the details.

For years I believed you had to be one or the other. You had to be someone who could see the big picture or someone who thrived on dealing with the details. Then, I discovered the concept isn’t that simple. Or that hard.

Rather, there seems to be a continuum or scale on which we all fall. At one end are the folks who find it difficult to notice details because they’re so focused on the big picture. And vice versa, at the other end, people who are so close to the details they don’t seem to notice there is a big picture.

And then, there are those who fall in between.

Big picture and detail in the Schulte and Schulte office

We were interested where the folks in our office were located on that scale. So, we took a little test.

Tonya came in at 60

This is what she learned, “You scored as more of a ‘big picture’ thinker. This means that you often zoom out and try to understand a situation from a broader perspective, but you sometimes miss out on the finer details. You likely consider yourself more of an ‘artistic’ or ‘creative’ person rather than a ‘scientific’ or ‘rational’ person. You aren’t as interested in the small nuts and bolts of how things work, but how things fit together in a larger context. The closer your score is to “100” the more of a ‘big picture’ thinker you are.”

Alicia scored 34

She was told, “You scored as more of a ‘detail oriented’ thinker. This means that you often zoom in and breakdown a situation based on its individual parts, but you sometimes miss out on the bigger picture. You likely consider yourself more of an ‘scientific’ or ‘rational’ person rather than an ‘artistic’ or ‘creative’ person. You are often interested in the small nuts and bolts of how things work but find it difficult to see things fit together in a larger context. The closer your score is to ‘0’ the more of a ‘detail oriented’ thinker you are.”

Joe showed up at 49

His results were, “You scored as equal parts ‘big picture’ thinker and ‘detail oriented’ thinker. This means that you are capable of zooming out and trying to understand a situation from a broader perspective, but you’re also good at zooming in and seeing the finer details of how things work. You likely consider yourself both an ‘artistic’ and ‘creative’ person, as well as a ‘scientific’ and ‘rational’ person, depending on the situation.”

Take the quiz

You may already have an idea where you fall on the continuum. Or you may be surprised. So, go ahead and take the quiz. It is free and you don’t have to give your email to get the results. It is twenty-five questions long and takes only minutes to complete.

Not only will you have a better idea of which traits you already possess, but you’ll also be able to note in which areas you may need to improve. And yes, it is interesting to get others in the office to take the quiz also. It may be eye-opening for you and your staff or coworkers.

In case you were wondering, I received the same response as Joe although my score was 54.

Unexpected ways to improve your big picture eye

Stay informed. Think about what is happening beyond your business or community. Think about trends in demographic, economic, social, and technological ways.

Be sociable – in person. Connect with a variety of people. Spend time talking with people from different areas of life. More important than talking to them is listening to them. Consider other’s opinions and views.

Read or listen to books. Not just construction or business-related books. Read about the “things of interest” in your mind. Science, music, history, people, or ideas you wish to explore. Whatever. Have fun. And learn some stuff along the way.

Volunteer. Of course, there is always value in the act of helping others. But you may not have thought of the value you can receive from seeing the world from a different perspective. Plus, typically when you volunteer you can interact with like-minded people who show up where you show up.

Chase rabbits. OK, there is a different term for this activity. Some call it “surfing the web.” Go with no purpose in mind. Travel to places you’ve never gone before. See something that interests you? Chase it down. Share what you learned with others. (In the past, this category would have been called, Go to the library.)

Play games. From getting involved with an amateur sports team to playing board or card games there are many ways to play games. And oh, what you can learn! Leadership skills, teamwork, staying on track, focus, determination, and sportsmanship are just a few of the lessons learned from playing games. Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned is to not take yourself too seriously – have fun along the way.

Check this out also

This article is the third in a four-part series concerning leadership in the construction world. The first was, Leadership – Keep learning. The Next was Leadership — Practice Composure.  And the fourth is Leadership — Inspire others


We desire to familiarize you with business concepts, which will make it easier for you to be a better commercial construction subcontractor through our blog posts. Some are new ways of looking at things, and others are refreshers. 

Schulte and Schulte Provides Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs! Call us 866-629-7735

Drone Thinking in Construction Contracting

Drone thinking sets you above the crowd.

Drone Thinking as a tool

Before we begin, let’s get something cleared up. Capterra’s Rachel Burger wrote a blog post for The Balance Small Business titled, 6 Ways Drones Are Affecting the Construction Industry. She has some cool insight into how using drones is beneficial to construction contractors. It is worth the few minutes it takes to get her overview. Check it out, you may find a few bits you hadn’t already thought of.

It’s good stuff. Yet, it isn’t what this article is about. This article is about Drone Thinking, not Drone Using.

So, Drone Thinking is all about using your mind to soar above the happenings of the daily routine and getting a “drone’s eye view” of how your commercial construction business is doing. It is a step taking you to equanimity. Because, by definition, equanimity means having “mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness; equilibrium.”

It is a matter of having the mindset which allows you to leave the minutia of chaos and confusion on the ground, while you soar overhead and look at the big picture.

Drone Thinking next steps

Instead of taking a step back, take a flight above. Look down on your business from a drone perspective. After completing step one below, you can use the time to deal with the other four components.

  1. Allocate time to think – put it on your calendar, at minimum one hour, once a week.
  2. Remove false assumptions – never mind boxes (or thinking out of them) simply work toward knowing your own false assumptions and how to deal with them.
  3. Know the data – of course, we’re here to help with that!
  4. Identify gaps – typically found in processes and procedures. (We can help with this too.)
  5. Pick specific goals – they might include increased profitability, efficiency, or sustainability.

Here are some questions you may wish to cover:

  • What funding, equipment, personnel, and technology will it take to reach my business goals?
  • What are three to five important initiatives that will have the greatest positive impact on my construction business? (Remember, having too many priorities means you don’t really have any.)
  • How can I improve my leadership skills?
  • What can I do to be better at holding others accountable?
  • Am I missing the boat (and if so how) in communicating the vision for my company?
  • What are the best strategies to use in these areas:
    • Marketing
    • Monetization
    • Sales
    • Social media
    • Operations
  • Who should I put in charge of developing tactics concerning each item in the above list of strategic areas?

It takes courage and focus to truly ignore what is going on IN your business, so you can soar above and work ON your business.

Further thoughts to use while you soar:

  • Financials – Are there ways to reduce times in accounts receivable? What can we do to reduce outstanding debt? Are our budgets current and active?
  • Operations – What can we use to improve productivity? How can we eliminate more waste? What can we change to make us more efficient?
  • Marketing – What methods should we use to increase brand awareness? How can we let General Contractors in our area know what we bring to the table? Is there something we can do to niche-down better?

Drone Thinking in the day to day

Taking advantage of your allocated Drone Thinking time is imperative. And, out of that time will come your ability to increase your Drone Thinking daily mindfulness.

Determine what will have the greatest impact on your business. From there, you can communicate better and assign responsibilities (and accountabilities) which push you and your staff toward the goals which improve your business.

The time you take to work on your business is time well spent. Take advantage of all this Drone Thinking strategy has to offer.

Also, pay attention to this bit of advice from one of the Masters.

“Every now and then go away. . . Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” – Leonardo Da Vinci


It is our desire this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) is helpful in assisting commercial construction contractors build better building businesses. 

Providing Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. Call us! 866-629-7735