The Art of Business: The importance of perspective

Reflect No Comments

You probably agree with these two beliefs:
1) We all see an issue, an event, our lives, our work in ways that are a bit different to the person sitting next to us, on the phone or at the other end of cyberspace.
2) In our lives and work we will do better if we see and understand more of what is going on in any situation: our decisions will be more informed, a way forward will have more chance of success, a plan will have more support and things will feel fairer all round.

[If you don’t agree – please let me know, I would like to understand more of your point of view!]

I propose that understanding more of what others see is highly useful, however you view knowledge and whatever your stance on the Enlightenment Project :
a) If you are seeking to discover and promote truth – with a positivistic approach (maybe if you work in basic research or are someone who likes to develop a rational strategy in your organisation)
b) If you are keen to understand more of each other’s contingent realities – in a postmodern way (for example in staff engagement and listening to potential customers in a focus group or existing product users as a designer)
c) If you are trying to learn more about your assumptions and prejudices – in a ‘post-positivist’ sort of way (which can be very useful in a organisation where you are trying to avoid group think in deciding on a more emergent strategy or a team where you are trying to navigate your way through conflict)

Given how we are as humans (with mind-sets that are both firmly fixed and fluid too) and the importance of trying to understand different viewpoints as we work to improve things, maybe you will agree that in addition to the two truisms at the start of this blog there is a third crucial one for any leader (defined as someone who is trying to influence the behaviour and action of others, from a sports team captain to a member of a band; from a charity volunteer to the CEO of a major corporation).

So what is this third belief, that makes a trilogy of truisms? The proposal: the core skill a leader needs is ‘perspective management’. This ranges from:
i. A deep curiosity in what others see – whether those ‘others’ are senior colleagues, complaining customers, union stewards with a grievance or people who are met in the course of a journey. This leads to seeking out opportunities to see things differently – from starting a Board meeting with a ‘patient journey’, to walking the floor, to sitting quietly in a café or store watching potential customers examine your product.
ii. An ability to ‘hold their own beliefs lightly’. Jim Collins in ‘Good to Great’ described how level 5 leaders have a rare combination of humility and will. Leading through perspective is more about the humility of that formule– the harder part of a determined (and possibly arrogant) leader to master.
iii. A desire to reflect and refine, to review to improve in the light of experience and others opinions. They are a ‘cycle manager’.

Perspectives (and how they are explored, entertained and used) is at the heart of excellence, for a leader, team and organisation.

‘Perspective management’ is difficult to apply, it is not a precise science. Leading with and through an exchange and exploration of perspectives is more like an art, with some disciplines and a desire to help others (and oneself) seen anew:
– Like an artist, the leader is thinking all the time about how (and how far) to challenge themselves and others to see things differently
– Like an artist, the leader is open to different methods and media to help themselves and others see.
– The leader has to decide, often intuitively, how much time to invest in exploring and considering, before (and during, and after) ‘execution’

Are you a perspective manager? I hope you might see you are, or at least see the need to try and be one.


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