UK: Zoom In

Last Updated: 26 July 2019
Article by Andrew Kakabadse

Leaders heading up multinational organisations should be able to appreciate the big picture and zoom in on the smallest of details. However, these skills are often few and far between

We all work in a world where performing effectively as a global business is essential. However, despite this, there's no single proven programme or discipline which provides leaders with the capabilities and competencies they need to succeed.

Our research of more than 10,000 executives working in over 1,000 organisations around the world – titled the 'The Top Team Research Project' – suggests that the most effective global leaders are almost mechanically adept at moving between different contexts, cultures and characters.

You might be surprised at how rare these qualities are and, if you're starting to feel a little concerned about how this might be the case and want to become more personally and organisationally effective in a modern leadership role, then please read on.

Leading with Zoomability

In many cases, leaders use their own, in-built 'zoom lens' to probe and uncover issues that are just below the surface, but which need to be resolved. To do this they separate personalities from policies and cultural nuances from their business context. By doing so the most effective chairman or CEO is able to tease out the real issues and resolve problems to make things happen.

We call the process of switching 'zoomability.' Think of the zoom lens on a camera. Like a professional photographer, the best leaders become able to switch perspective many times within the same conversation or meeting.

Among the hundreds of boards we have studied, the ability to zoom in and out in a measured and skilful way is one of the most important characteristics that mark out exceptional chairmen, chairwomen and chief executives.

In many cases, they use zoom to successfully probe and uncover issues lying just beneath the surface that need to be resolved, separating personalities, policies and cultural nuances from the business context.

In this way the most effective chairman or CEO is able to tease out the real issues and resolve key problems in order to make things happen. They do this with a view to three distinct territories:

1 The characters they are dealing with
2 The context of the meeting
3 The culture in which they are operating.

Each of these ranges from big picture down to the granular level. Take the 'character' domain, for example. An effective CEO might look around the boardroom table and see the bigger picture of the characters there, viewing them by their job title: CFO; CTO for Europe; and global HR director. But when required they can also zoom in to see them as individuals with very individual human characteristics and idiosyncratic behaviours.

How does this work in practice? In contemplating the CTO's negative response to a proposal, for instance, the CEO zooms in on his character. He remembers that Claire was overlooked for promotion last year and is still unhappy about it. 

This knowledge may allow the CEO to unlock Claire's response to persuade her to support the idea on the table, perhaps with a gentle reminder that the project will create a new role of global CTO that she would be well qualified to fill.

Surprisingly, this ability to zoom in and out is not as common as might be imagined. Many highly competent leaders we have studied have a significant weakness or blind spot in this area.
In our recent submission of evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry into 'Strategic Leadership in the Civil Service', it emerged that civil servants have a far greater capacity to zoom in and out than ministers.

The majority of ministers tend to stay either at the broader, bigger picture level, or for large part find it difficult to accept an alternative perspective after having analysed the details when zooming in.
Ministers tend to be wedded to their viewpoint and find it difficult to cope with challenge when zooming in and find themselves confronted with a different perspective based on an alternative compilation of details.

Only two Secretaries of State emerged from our study as being realistically capable of zooming in and out, accurately drawing on the inputs of others including civil servants, and emerging with a way forward and of working in a manner that others could trust.

Referring to the Prime Minister's capabilities in this area one civil servant commented: "Theresa May makes a far better Permanent Secretary than Minister because of her capacity to systematically work through details to reach a meaningful conclusion".

This being the case, the PM emerged as a competent example of someone who is fully capable of zooming in and out.

Her predicament is that she is constantly firefighting politically-sensitive situations in her Cabinet, as well as a large section of her party, who undermine her and are not aligned with her view.

Staying in Focus

Our research suggests that the majority of leaders have a default or preferred setting. They either adopt a zoomed-out position, and are characterised as big-picture thinkers, or they zoom-in and repeatedly focus on the details. They are capable of zooming in and out on occasions, but do not do so automatically.

However, there is a third group of executives with a very different style. These leaders are highly adept at zooming in and out during the course of a meeting - or any other situation where they exercise their leadership.

Having observed their behaviour over many years, we have found that these individuals are far more effective at getting their desired outcomes from meetings and other management situations.
They make excellent chairmen and chairwomen. They are more effective at creating buy-in and identifying and fixing problems before they become a block on organisational effectiveness. In short: they reap the profits of zoom.

The Zoom Lens

Using our zoom framework there are three critical domains that explain how effective leaders plot pathways through difficult issues.

1 Zooming in and out of context - from big pictures to budgets, or strategy to execution
2 Zooming in and out of cultures - regional or national culture to departmental culture
3 Zooming in and out of characters - job title to individual personality

The ability to zoom in and out of different cultures, contexts and characters is key to the effectiveness of global leaders. Culture and character are typically the doorways to context. Leaders neglect these factors at their peril.

Zoomability Leadership Capabilities

1 Be clear on the goals you want to achieve and on the steps needed to get there
2 Design a well-constructed and carefully thought through case covering why these goals are necessary based on accurate details confirming the value and competitive advantage that will be achieved
3 Identify those who are not aligned with your viewpoint, the compelling logic and nature of their position, and its potential impact
4 Identify the pathways needed to navigate and achieve engagement across misalignments
5 Accurately capture culture and character to emotionally engage when the arguments themselves are far apart. Be prepared to continually zoom in and out of culture, character and detail to challenge and highlight the weaknesses of opposing cases
6 Build your own levels of resilience and political skill to reduce misalignments. Continually zooming in can be wearing so preparedness and fortitude is important in ensuring your argument becomes accepted as the correct way forward. 

Andrew Kakabadse is Professor of governance and leadership at Henley Business School

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions