Quarterly C.O.R.E. Conversation: Perspective


“We can’t solve problems by using the same type of thinking we used when we created them.– Albert Einstein

Perspective is everything. What angles do you see? Where are you coming from? What challenge or problem have you been trying to solve (people issue, technology issue, etc.) that might benefit from a change in perspective?

Great leaders are continuously monitoring their perspectives. They leverage the viewpoints of those around them. Great leaders try to envision what it would be like to be in another person’s shoes (their employees, their stockholders, their customers, etc.) and see the world through their lenses. They then use those viewpoints to address concerns, modify their plans, and move forward in ways that address these other viewpoints.

The inexperienced or ineffective leader will often myopically start down a path without thinking which path might be best given the destination, the environmental conditions, and the specific needs and conditions of the people that he or she is taking on the journey. For example, a change leader may take a perspective that everyone is “on-board” or will get “on-board,” never truly understanding the perspectives of his or her stakeholders. The result of this myopic approach is often fatal. Good ideas often fail in implementation because the drivers fail to embrace the perspective of those affected by the change.

Great leaders often create perspectives quite different from the norm. Take, for example, the broadcast news model of the 1970’s and 1980’s. The television networks did not believe that there was a market for continuous news; their perspective was that the market for news was limited to a 30 minute timeslot. Ted Turner, founder of CNN, had a different perspective. He believed that people wanted news “on demand” and created 24 hour news to fill this need. Today, you can even imagine having to wait till a certain time of day to get the news?

As another example of creating new perspective, look at the history behind the quote by Eisenhower, “Don’t just do something; stand there!” The prevailing norm being addressed was that action, rather than thoughtful action, led to progress. Eisenhower demanded a new perspective of his leaders, and the success on D-day stands today as a testament to this shift and its results. As a leader, what perspectives do you hold that are contrary to the prevailing norms?

Can you think of a time when your perspective changed dramatically with just one extra piece of information? Perhaps you learned of a person’s status or position and then began to think of that person much differently than before. Perhaps you judged a person as lacking skill or competency, only to later find out that this person was ill or grieving from a personal loss and thus his or her performance was far different from usual? The point here is that your perspective is always driving your judgments, your conclusions, and your solutions.

You might ask, “How do I improve my ability to monitor my perspective?” Practice changing your view. Go back to the challenge or problem that you are trying to solve. See if you can look at the problem from a different perspective and generate a different solution. Here are some questions to get you started:

What assumptions am I making?

What are my choices?

How else can I interpret or think about this?

How would one of my peers or my manager perceive the issue?

How can I be more objective regarding the issue I am facing?

Are my assumptions based on the past or what is happening now?

To build your perspective “muscle” you must exercise your ability to shift your perspective. Nelson Mendela once said of political perspective on issues, “Where you stand depends on where you sit!” To be a great leader you must be able to “sit” in the seat(s) of your stakeholders. Practice generating different perspectives until it is a natural process for you.

Another way to build your perspective is to simply ask others to share their perspective. Try this simple exercise. Find someone who is very different than you or who typically holds a contrary view. Ask them their perspective on something you are working on today. See if you learn something new or think about something in a new way. You just may be surprised at how a different angle can help you see a new possibility, develop a potential solution, or even make an important decision. One of the things that makes coaching such a powerful process is that a coach can offer different perspectives, new angles, and objective assessments – helping you see what you may not be able to see from where you sit. Who are you partnering with to help you see new and different angles?

Finally, as this is the first in series of C.O.R.E. leadership newsletters, what is your perspective on newsletters? What would you like to see? What don’t you want to see? Send me a quick note and get more of what you need to lead!

Email Me Direct: michele@parrishpartners.biz

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