Don’t know where to begin? That can be solved by doing what I call “going up to 30,000 feet and looking down.” Take the biggest-picture view you can find on your topic and be thought-provoking about what’s at the core of your issue, or, as President George H. W. Bush is known to have called it, find that “vision thing.”
The view from 30,000 feet is the exact opposite of peering through the weeds, and while most people in an organization are by definition, and indeed by assignment, stuck in the day-to-day weeds, certainly a leader is in a position—and arguably has the responsibility—to rise to a higher vantage point.
For an example of a 30,000-foot view, let’s look at another of my clients, an entrepreneurial company that manufactures super-high-end sports equipment. The executives came to me for spokesperson training in advance of what they expected to be a busy season of trade shows and competitions where their products and sponsored athletes would attract a lot of attention. The engineering and technology that goes into the production of their equipment is as fascinating as it is dense with detail and data. Yet for the media—and for the benefit of building and promoting the brand—they needed to develop some higher-level messaging. The nitty-gritty details could be saved for the trade journals that craved them.
In a small-group session with the core executive team, I asked a series of questions to elicit the 30,000-foot view. Fundamentally, I was pushing and poking at them to home in and identify what their company is really all about. It’s not about the product line or producing the best equipment; it’s not about being made in America; it’s not even about satisfied customers. Those are all great attributes, but they’re closer to the ground. What the 30,000-foot exercise yielded in the end was that their company is all about three things, characterized in a different way: innovation, performance, and fun.
Having a 30,000-foot view of your organization’s work in your back pocket means you’re always prepared to speak at the higher visionary level befitting a leader. It gives you a go-to point when you need to make remarks that describe your work and its value.
[Excerpted from Jock Talk: 5 Communication Principles for Leaders as Exemplified by Legends of the Sports World, www.jocktalkbook.com]