“That’s not how I see it.”
We’ve all used that sentence. Some more than others.
Question: how open are you to understand another perspective?
About anything. But let’s keep this business related.
In the past few weeks, my work has revolved heavily around helping CEOs deal with roster issues. In some cases, the CEO doesn’t feel like he’s got the right people in place. In another case, an owner isn’t quite sure if certain people are doing the work they’re most ideally suited to do. Discussions about handling people challenges can be some of the most personal conversations possible. There’s emotion, sentiment and all kinds of stuff that has to be processed.
It’s just one area where “how I see it” impacts our behavior and the actions we take. Or the actions we refuse to take.
Bob sees a team member underperforming. He draws conclusions about why. That gap between what Bob knows and what he doesn’t is filled in with Bob’s opinions. It’s how he sees it.
When he confronts the team member with his assumptions he then – for the first time – realizes he wasn’t looking at accurately. Turns out the employee, married for 8 years, just found out his wife had a boyfriend. He’s wrecked and it’s obviously impacted his ability to work. Bob had no idea. How could he? He thought this employee was loafing, “slacking off.”
As you may imagine, it ended up being a very conversation than the one Bob had planned. So it goes. We see it the way we see it — until we see it differently.
Bob wonders how he may have improved his perspective. Being the candid communicator I am I simply say, “You could have talked with him and asked him what was going on.” Call me Captain Obvious, but Bob knows he could have done that. He also knows he chose instead to make assumptions based on how he saw things. Nevermind that he wasn’t looking at the whole picture. There was a major piece of the puzzle he couldn’t see – infidelity in the employee’s marriage.
Yesterday we talked about how you see things inside your head, something supremely important. Today it’s mostly about how we see the outside world, but let’s leverage both ideas for our benefit because outside perspectives can serve us in both cases.
Lately, I’ve been fixated a bit on the parable Jesus told about the prodigal son in Luke 15. Here’s a young man who wanted his inheritance in advance of his father’s passing and the dad gave it to him. He promptly leaves home, goes to another country and lives it up. He indulges in every sinful behavior he can while he does whatever he wants. It’s all great and wonderful until the money runs out and the friends all leave. Destitute he wanders around until he gets a job feeding pigs. He’s so hungry he’ll eat what the pigs are eating, but nobody is there to help him. There in the pigpen the Bible says, “he came to himself.” He decides to go back home and beg his father to forgive him and take him back – not as a son, but as a servant.
“He came to himself” is a powerful phrase signifying the value of another point of view. This young man left home seeing things very differently. He likely felt stifled in his father’s house. He wanted to do what he wanted to do. He didn’t realize that everything the father had was his, too. He didn’t realize how good he had it at home. Good clothing. Good food. Safety. Love. Care. He took all that for granted when he was there. But today, he has “come to himself.” He doesn’t see it the same way now. Now that he’s broke and broken.
How can we improve our vision without being broken? How we can improve our perspective without suffering what he suffered?
Step 1 – Be humble.
Be humble to realize you may not have it right. The way you see it today may be right, but it may be completely wrong. Bob saw his employee’s performance through a lens that only allowed for the employee’s performance to be explained by neglect or laziness. Turns out he was neither neglectful nor lazy. He was broken hearted. Bob never considered that possibility because he was confident he had it all figured out.
Step 2 – Be open.
What if this isn’t really how it is at all? Humility will fuel your ability to openly consider something other than your current viewpoint. But humility isn’t enough…you’ve got to intentionally open your mind to other possibilities.
Step 3 – Be curious.
Ask. Find out.
I never cease to be amazed at people who predetermine wrong “facts” that could so easily be prevented. Bob could have likely easily, and quickly, discovered the problem his employee was having. All he had to do is deploy curiosity and ask, “Hey, your performance is really dropping off. I’m worried about you. What’s going on with you?” But Bob didn’t do that. He wasn’t curious enough to find out if how he saw it was accurate or not. He simply rode with his assumptions. Big mistake!
Step 4 – Be clear. Understand.
Be clear in your understanding and in your communication. Be clear in the questions you ask to feed your curiosity.
Clear vision – and clear thinking – aren’t possible with muddy thinking, understanding or communication. This is no time for babbling incoherently – come to think of it, IS there ever a time for that? Don’t tell Capital Hill there’s never a good time for that!
This is a bit of an amplification of step 3 in that you need to dive deeply enough into curiosity to get the answers and information necessary so you better understand.
Step 5 – Be changeable.
Armed with new information and a new outlook the prodigal son went back home apologizing to his father. He didn’t have to. He could have been resentful and bitter at his failure. He could have been too humiliated to go back home. And the father could have berated him when he came back. But none of that happened. The father ran to him, fell on him and kissed his neck, then he put a robe on him, a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. His son had come home. He wasn’t a servant. He was a son. A son who had learned, understood and grown – enough to change.
The only point of leveraging an outside perspective is to see things more clearly so we can change – aka grow and improve.
It often takes an outside perspective because we only know what we know. We only see what we see. Again, it’s not always a matter of right or wrong. It’s always a matter of clarity though. Can we see things more clearly? Absolutely. Can others help us do that? Of course!
There’s one big hurdle with the outside perspective. Judgment.
Quite often outside perspectives love to judge our current perspective. They like to tell us what we should do. What we shouldn’t do. They enjoy criticizing what we’ve already done or what we say we’re about to do. That’s not helpful. Kick people like that to the curb. Ditch them. You don’t need those people in your life because they’re not serving you. They’re serving themselves. They don’t care about you more than they care about themselves.
Instead, surround yourself with people willing to listen and understand how you see things. And, people courageous enough to share with you alternative ways to look at it. Ways that promote a more meaningful way to consider it. Ways that provoke you to find out if you’re seeing it accurately or not. And ways that provoke you to put in the work to make sure you’re seeing it as clearly as possible. People who want to help you be better without regard for themselves because they understand this is YOUR life, not theirs.
It’s why you hear me constantly say, “You’ll figure it out. I’m just here to help.”
Be well. Do good. Grow great!