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Granular Thinking is Not a Crime

I once worked for a boss who accused me of being granular or always looking at things from “in the weeds.” Ironically, that couldn’t have been further from the truth and maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m no longer there. But I digress.

I once worked for a boss who accused me of being granular or always looking at things from “in the weeds.” Ironically, that couldn’t have been further from the truth and maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m no longer there. But I digress. It used to really frustrate me that, no matter how high level, big picture, or blue sky my suggestions were, my contributions and perspectives were always dismissed as being “too granular.”  

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I’m no Dr. Phil, but the use of the label granular, when used as a form of constant criticism, seems to be a corporate buzz word managers fling around when they’re trying to tear people down instead of trying to build them up. In fact, I haven’t seen such a smear campaign against a way of thinking since everybody decided it was better to think outside of the box. I still haven’t gotten over that one. 

So that begs the question–as leaders and/or managers, is being granular something that should be ridiculed? And, if so, does anyone have any suggestions on how we’re supposed to get anything done if we don’t have someone on your team sweating the details? All the creative thinking in the world will be just that—thinking—unless we have someone “in the weeds” who is able to execute our ideas.  

I’ve been lucky. My first job out of college was working as manager for a large home improvement center. I had this idealized vision in my head of what it meant to be a manager and that vision didn’t include driving a forklift or running a cash register. I was still a little green and it took me months to appreciate why they included rotations through each department as part of the training. I’ll save you the Hallmark moment, but I do think that experience has made me a better employee, team member, and manager. I understand what it takes to run a business. Whether I’m flying solo or delegating tasks to someone on the team, I can be sure not to overextend myself or others.  

As you climb the corporate ladder, it’s natural to get further and further away from day-to-day operations. If you find that happening, I encourage you to make a conscious effort to spend some time in the weeds. If nothing else, you might find out that granular mindset you once despised will actually help you be a more effective leader. Or, if nothing else, it might give you a chance to tool around on a really cool forklift.  

Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com).

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About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning

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