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  • Writer's picturePhil Cole

Grand and Small Things

There are times when we talk about grand things, and there are times when we talk about small things. Vision exists in both, but in different ways. When we talk about grand things, we explain why. We show progress towards the outcome, we connect members to the group and each other, and we point out the worth and value of the work. We motivate and inspire. When we talk about small things, we tell what happens next. The next action, the next day, the next challenge. The steps that the group must take. And while we explain the context of these steps towards a larger outcome, our focus on the small things is to give clear direction. Expectations, activities, communication. The small things are the process of performing and combining tasks.

These two perspectives are not opposed, but they require a different focus and approach. For each of these moments, the following exercise directs our attention to the relevant places. As with all doing exercises, repetition makes the thought process here become second nature.

Think about an upcoming situation where you will be in front of the group in the role of leader. Consider the following questions as you decide what you will say.

Words, Ideas, Expressions

  • Is there a specific challenge that they need to overcome? How will they know that they have achieved excellence in this challenge?

  • Do the members need the emotional inspiration of a grand thing? Do they already know what to do and need inspiration to excel?

  • Or do they need to concrete, deliberate planning of a small thing? Do they need clarity and direction to accomplish something new?

  • What do you need to say to match the specific circumstances? What is going on that needs to be included in the members’ meaning-making?

  • Which of the five factors are necessary to provide what the members of the group need? How do these factors connect to each other within the story?


  • Why do you need to talk about it now?

  • Will this event occur only once? What is unique and special about this moment?

  • Will this occur again, or has it occurred in the past? If so, what triggers will indicate a similar event is occurring?


  • Are you the proper person to tell this story?

  • Are there others who have credibility or experience that would be more effective storytellers?

  • What is the most effective form to tell this story? Are there forms other than your own words?

  • How would these methods affect the way that the story is understood?

  • Do the members have what they need to share their meaning-making with others? To facilitate others’ meaning-making?

  • Are you checking in to see if people are repeating it, and then using the language they use to make it in their language?

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