The Weeds vs. The Way Forward

As a leader or manager, one of the most difficult day-to-day decisions we face is how to balance spending time in “the weeds” and creating a long-term vision for whatever we are tasked with doing. For example, as a marketing leader, part of my responsibility is to create a marketing strategy that helps grow the business today and in the future as the business and the market evolve. At the same time, I have a monthly budget to keep in mind, KPIs that my team has to report on, personnel decisions to consider… the list goes on.

Balancing the day-to-day with future considerations reaches beyond the C Suite; any person who considers herself or himself a leader faces this challenge. While I certainly don’t claim to have a strategy that will work for every person in every organization, I have found some strategies that work for me.:

Set a time limit for journeys into the weeds

We can’t all be visionaries all the time. Sometimes, even at the highest levels of an organization, we have to take a granular approach to an issue to solve a problem or move the business forward. I have found that problems arise when I allow myself to stay in the weeds for too long. It can be easy to get stuck on a task and feel like you can’t move your day forward until you solve it. In reality, however, few tasks are so crucial to an organization that they must be completed immediately. So, any time you are preparing to take a deep dive, set a time limit for yourself to ensure you don’t lose too much time on a single issue.

Keep the bigger picture in mind

Even when you do have to get into the weeds, it is important to keep in mind why completing a single task or solving a specific problem is important in your overall strategy. As a marketer, for example, creating a social media calendar week after week can feel like a bit of a rote exercise if you don’t view it as part of a larger brand strategy. Each post is a brick in a large wall; by itself it may seem relatively unimportant, but it serves as a crucial piece in what you hope to achieve long term.

Let the experts be experts

As a leader, there are times when the best thing you can do to help solve a problem is stay out of it. If the issue is not in your area of expertise, sometimes all you are doing by intervening is complicating an already challenging situation. Of course, there will also be times, especially as a manager, when a situation proves too important or urgent for you to stay out of it completely. In those cases, it certainly makes sense to get involved—but that doesn’t mean you have to stay involved. It may be useful for you to provide some initial analysis and guidance, but once your team has decided on a course of action it’s often best to let the people with the most expertise execute. As leaders or managers, we tend to feel obligated to work until the problem is solved. But if we want to be next-gen leaders, we have to recognize that we are always the person best suited to doing the tactical work.

Eric Lebowitz is the VP of Marketing at Critical Mention and co-founder of The Forward Marketer, a digital marketing firm and official HubSpot Agency partner. He loves golf and the New York Mets.