I was reminded of this when I switched on Question Time in the Australian Parliament last week. Government backbenchers usually ask calculated questions inviting Ministers to spruik big Government plans and major budgetary measures (or attack the Opposition). But under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s new protocols, backbenchers are additionally encouraged to ask small practical questions about issues in their own electorate.
It was quite remarkable.
I heard the Minister for Local Government talk warmly about the Mango Hill Progress Association in Queensland. About work on the 14 kilometre Moreton Bay Rail Link, including the six new stations that are practically complete. Mango Hill Progress Association. The very words conjure up community, don't they?
I heard the Minister for the Environment talk about community groups doing environmental work in the Dandenong ranges, and the way $450,000 has been allocated to regenerate native plants and wildlife. He spoke warmly about young people making a difference with five completed Green Army projects, two underway, and two due to start.
I heard the Minister for Vocational Education talk about 2,100 apprentices currently in training in the electorate of Calare, and how the Police Service, Blayney Shire Council and Finemore Transport are taking on apprentices. All supported by the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network, which was for the first time an entity that meant something concrete to me.
These were parts of Australia I had never visited and barely knew of. But these stories were creating images in my mind of busy regions, useful projects, and young people with hope and opportunity. None of these projects had anything to do with me in particular, but nevertheless I had a sense of well-being, a feeling that this was a good country in which good things were happening.
All leaders can strengthen their influence by talking about specific examples and case studies, but too often they don’t. They talk in large round numbers, five year timetables, and broad measures. One reason they do this is because they are given – or select – such big strategic subjects for their speeches. In trying to convey the big strategic picture, they neglect the power of the small picture, which provides evidence of competence and a credible cause for optimism.
Business leaders often forget to tell the smaller,more specific stories that illustrate their awareness of all aspects of their business. I suspect it is often because speeches are drafted in head office, without enough feel for life in the front-line of supply, customer service, or implementation. But it’s out there in the trenches that the small victories occur and the future is made. All those small pictures add up to something big.
This is my last blog post for this year. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.