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Widening your View

I recently attended an excellent conference run by the International Leadership Association and the New Zealand Leadership Institute.

One workshop considered the issues that can arise when leadership academics and practitioners look to work together.  As an exercise the attendees were split into two groups, one of academics and the other made up of practitioners (trainers; coaches; organisational leaders).  Each group was asked to identify the obstacles, challenges or possibilities that come up (or could come up) when engaging with new parties / people coming from a different perspective.

Going through the exercise and the subsequent debrief was insightful to me (as a practitioner) in helping me to appreciate more about the world of the academic.  More importantly, I realised the potential opportunities that can come from finding a way to move a few steps closer to each other, rather than see the other party as being ‘the problem’ as a way of avoiding the need to take any ownership.

The approach used in the session reminded me of the power of the work we do with leaders during a leadership programme or in individual coaching.  As part of this we will often ask them to consider an issue or their performance through a number of different lenses.  Depending on the situation we may suggest they consider things from the perspective of:

  • Their manager – e.g. What does he/she need from you to allow them to feel more confident in your ability?  What would they see you doing differently?  How can you make them look good?
  • Their team members – e.g. What do they need from you to perform to their full capability?  What leadership style/brand do you want to project?
  • Their peers – e.g. What do your peers see you doing / not doing that signals to them you are worth engaging with?  What do they see you doing that may get in the way of them working more collaboratively with you?
  • That person you are having a hard time with – e.g. If you asked them, what do you think they would say you could do differently to improve your relationship?

In and of themselves, the kind of questions we ask are not particularly unique or special.  However, the fact that the leader is being asked to look at things from a different perspective from their own can often provide useful insights and ideas on way to deal with problems or move forward and develop.

Sometimes we get so close and involved in an issue that we become myopic and unable to see things clearly.  Taking a step back and thinking from another’s perspective can be a powerful way of getting out of the ‘issue’ and to begin to identify potential ways forward.

So, next time you’re stuck with something and can’t seem to find a way out, take a few minutes to put yourself in the shoes of the other party and look at the issue through their eyes.  Ask what they see; feel; would suggest and see if this opens up some new thinking for you.


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