Archives for April 2013
The Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho said “You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.”
The majority of leaders today are looking but not seeing. Looking is an inactive process of gathering information while seeing is the active process of going beyond merely gathering information and actively finding new perspectives.
This morning I found myself looking and not seeing. My wife and I are blessed to live a block and a half away from Puget Sound. We can stand along the west wall of our house and look across Puget Sound to Vashon Island and the Olympic Mountains. It is an inspiring and compelling view and one that captures my attention when the sun dips behind the snow capped Olympic Mountains.
This morning in the hustle and bustle of preparing for my day I walked up to our living room windows and looked mechanically out at the Olympic Mountains. Within two to three seconds I turned and walked off to start work on my to-do list.
What I did was look at the mountains but I didn’t see the mountains. I didn’t appreciate the snowcapped peaks with the pink hue covering them, nor did I see the uncharacteristically calm waters of Puget Sound. I looked at them, but I didn’t see them fully because I was on automatic pilot and thinking of other things.
This way of seeing the world is all too common in the world of work. Leaders can be found walking the halls of their organization and “looking at” people and things but neglecting to see the subtle intricacies available beyond a cursory or obligatory gaze.
If you want to see things more clearly there are three things I suggest you do:
1. Become a human being and not a human doing: This may sound trite, but it is actually difficult for a lot of busy executives to do. Leaders never do their best work when they are overly stimulated with meetings, to-do lists and the clarion call of more, better, faster and cheaper. In order to allow new perspectives and insights to flow you have to carve out time to see beyond your to-do lists and commitments. You have to become equally at home navigating your days with a compass as well as a watch.
2. Understand the back-story: My mother had a great line when it came to understanding people and their actions. She said, “Hugh, there are three sides to every story. There is your side, the other person’s side and there is the truth. If you want to understand the truth and why people do what they do you have to first understand the other persons side of the story.” What mom helped me see is that the back-story of each of our lives is where the rich context of all prior events, conversations and interactions reside and that allowed the present situation to happen. When you see the back-story as a catalyst of the current situation that it is, you will gain clarity and greater flexibility for moving forward.
3. Practice the 3 – Minute Rule: One hundred and eighty seconds is the amount of time it takes most people to disengage from their current ways of perceiving in order to fully grasp the implications of a new perspective. It’s also the amount of time it takes for executives to see more fully the back-story and other subtle nuances that are hidden from us when we are in looking mode alone. If you want to see clearly, set aside 180 seconds and suspend any judgment you have for a situation and ask yourself the 3 –I questions about the information you have available.
a. What insight can I glean from this information?
b. What is the impact of this insight on me, my team, my family and or my organization?
c. What is the one thing I will implement that addresses my insight and its impact?
What is the one area of your professional and personal life that you want to see differently? These three steps will allow you to do just that.