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Management clichés #1 - Helicopter View

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

One thing that really niggles away at me in the work I do is the ever present danger of descending into clichés, particularly because, in the management and business training field, there are so many of them, and so many of them are simply so awful. But, to use one straight away, you should "confront your fears head-on", and that's exactly what I'm going to do in this series of articles.

I would hazard a guess that most people in management - or at any level in a reasonably-sized organisation - have heard the phrase "helicopter view", or a variant of it. The concept is simple: rise above the detail, don't get bogged down with the little stuff, and (warning, here's another one!) see the bigger picture...

The frustrating thing for me with this, as with many management clichés, much jargon and bulls**t, is that there is actually very little wrong with the concept. My issue with these things is that they are said as if it's something so easy to do, so blindingly obvious, and so straightforward that you must have been a muppet not to have thought of it yourself, and that you're simply in the wrong job if you don't get up in your helicopter immediately!

I have a problem with that for two reasons. The first: it's rather disrespectful - and potentially bullying - to use this style of management, leadership or coaching with someone. Secondly, although the concept may be simple, it's usually far, far harder to actually put it into practice. E=MC2 is a simple concept, but you try putting it into practice on a daily basis!

Working with a couple of people developing their biggest ever business pitch recently, I very quickly observed (as it's fare easier to do as an outsider) that they needed to "step back", take a "broader view", look at the "bigger picture" and so on; but (I think) I just about managed to pour forth all the clichés dancing on the very tip of my tongue.

Instead, I aimed to help them in a more practical way:

It's really easy to slip into huge volumes of nitty-gritty detail if you're a genuine expert in your field with a passion for what you do - that's actually what makes you an expert! Being selective about what you share, what you use, and how use use it makes you an effective expert.

Actually finding a way to translate superficial management clichés into practical, workable, tangible steps for people to take is far more helpful, powerful and respectful than simply letting them trot off your tongue and spill onto the table.

I'd really appreciate your help with this series; please share your "favourite" clichés below, and indeed any positive or negative results of them being bandied about...

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