I recently was in St. Louis, and after hundreds of times seeing it, I am still awe-struck by the Gateway Arch. Not only is it a magnificent piece of architecture and civil engineering, but I also think it is a powerful metaphor of how to function as a supervisor.

In my office, I have a picture of the unfinished Arch, just as they are installing the last piece. It is a visual reminder that the two sides were built simultaneously, all the way to the top, before they could be joined.

On an individual level, I think of building my employees like the Arch, taking care to address their performance on one side and their professional development on the other. I do not believe that you can ignore either and still get the result that you desire.

Organizationally, I am reminded of work from the Santa Fe Center for Emergent Strategies that encourages simultaneous cultivation of entrepreneurial processes and instrumental processes. It is the ying and yang of long term and short term, infrastructure and innovation, or operations and strategy. You must have both or neither is strong.

Think about how you can use the Arch as a metaphor for the work ahead of you. Putting in that last piece was a marvel in itself, and it serves as a reminder that you need to pay equal attention to both sides for the fit to be right.

beth triplett

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

Dr. beth triplett is the owner of leadership dots, offering coaching, training and consulting for new supervisors. She also shares daily lessons on her leadershipdots blog. Her work is based on the leadership dots philosophy that change happens through the intentional connecting of small steps in the short term to the big picture in the long term.

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