The Bigger Picture

Have you ever looked closely at mosaic artwork?

Mosaics are known for the hundreds of unique colorful pieces arranged into patterns to create larger, singular decorative designs.

When I was younger, I had a World Map mosaic jigsaw puzzle. This puzzle was made up of hundreds of small images blended together to create a larger portrait of the globe.

Puzzles are challenging for me regardless of design. Adding a mosaic spin to this particular puzzle proved to be especially difficult.

Holding individual pieces in my fingers produced very little information about the larger puzzle. It wasn’t until I looked for patterns within the puzzle that I saw how the bigger picture came together.


The reason I share this story is because the way we look at mosaic artwork should be similar to how we should treat employee performance.

When focusing solely on individual pieces, there is a good chance we become misled about the bigger picture. Instead, we must consider how all the separate pieces work together to produce the entire body of work.

For example, I have heard horror stories from teachers who indicate their supervisor made a judgement on their teaching abilities based on one underwhelming classroom visit.

I would hate for the School Board to make decisions on my performance based on one poorly-prepared school board meeting or one failed bond vote (guilty of both!). Similarly, administrators who make knee-jerk decisions on employees after one bad incident will create a culture of mistrust and fear within their building.

Administrators must take several different snapshots - such as classroom visits, student achievement scores, behavior data, and student feedback - to develop the bigger picture of teacher effectiveness.

In our district we encourage administrators to get out of the office and into the academic setting as much as possible. Not only will supervisors develop a clearer picture of the instructional ability of their staff members, supervisors will also gather important employee data such as ability to build relationships, professionalism, and work habits.

Furthermore, we openly discuss the individual snapshot versus the complete mosaic analogy with our employees on a on a regular basis. We build trust by making it clear supervisors are required to look for patterns of performance as opposed to focusing on single incidents.


It took me several weeks to complete the puzzle. As I placed the last piece (which happened to be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) the bigger picture finally came into focus. Had I stopped earlier in the process, I never would have reached a point where I could see the full portrait.

As leaders we must move beyond taking one snapshot and calling it a day. Rather, we must be committed to combining several unique pieces together to create a larger, singular picture of employee performance.

Looking for a great book discussing the importance of looking at patterns of employee performance? Consider reading Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan & Al Switzler.

Copyright © 2019 by Dr. Jared Smith LLC.  Specializing in Leadership, Education, and Personal Growth.