A Matter Of Perspective


It’s hard to remember a time when things have seemed more divided. The perspectives of good friends, co-workers and family members are being challenged almost on a daily basis. Sadly, relationships have even resulted in separation of company due to serious disagreement.  At times it seems nearly impossible to have an honest disagreement with some people. We all can be very passionate about our beliefs.  

So how do we navigate this stuff without going crazy?

I have been working with teams, who have had these types of conflicts, to help minimize potential damage to relationships.  The picture above was shown at a recent off-site. Participants were asked, “How many logs do you see?”

Some said three. Others said four.

Then somebody said, “It depends on how you look at. If I look at it from the left, I see four. But when I look at it from the right, I see three! So, it depends on your point of view.”


As spouses, partners, customers, colleagues, leaders, subordinates, and peers, we have the opportunity to choose to see a different perspective. Choosing to try to see something from another point of view does not mean that we must agree with it, or even like it, but it does mean that we are invested in the relationship enough to seek understanding.

Appreciating another perspective doesn’t always come easy or without training.  Take a look at the picture below. There is an image of a young woman and an older woman.  Do you see them both?  Did you see one immediately, but had to work at it to see the other?  Still not seeing both?  Maybe you see my point!  Check out the hint below:

young older woman.png

Hint: The young woman’s face is looking away, ie the nose and the chin (I saw this first). But I had to work at it to see the older woman’s face, ie the young woman’s ear is the eye and the neck decoration the older woman’s mouth. (I was actually getting irritated this wasn’t obvious)

So, let’s not just react to seeing part of the picture and instead, seek to understand the whole picture.  Let’s invest more in important relationships by choosing to seek out the other perspective and being willing to work at seeing if needed.

Executive Presence: The “It” Factor

If our impact is 7% words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language, is it any wonder that leaders who learn how to say what they need to say end up getting better results?

I will never forget the lunch meeting I had several years ago. Our team was meeting at a restaurant located on a busy Chicago street. If you have experienced the lunch rush in downtown Chicago, you are familiar with the pace and volume of people walking hastily to their destinations in the lunch hour. This lunch was memorable because of what happened before I even reached the door.

When I arrived, I found the leader already waiting. Outside. He was standing just to the side of the front door at the sidewalk, so that he could meet and greet us and welcome us to the meeting. He greeted me, shook my hand, and thanked me for coming. After a few words, he gestured for me to continue inside to our table while he waited for the remaining people to arrive. This habit of hospitality made an impression. I left that meeting feeling appreciated and valued: he had stood outside and waited to greet me and thank me personally for taking the time to come. He respected my time as well as my thinking: during the lunch he made sure he heard from everyone at the table, he reviewed the agenda we had prepared, and he checked to see if there was anything new we needed to review.

The experience is a bright spot in a sea of professional interactions I’ve had over the years.

The number one differentiator between a good leader and a great leader is their capacity to attend to their impact and be intentional about designing and delivering messages that come across well.

Thinking about the experience you as a leader are delivering to the people you serve with is an important habit of mind. As you prepare for your next meeting, take a moment to think about the experience you want to deliver.

  • How can you communicate appreciation for the time people are taking to come together?
  • In what ways can you set shared parameters for the focus of the meeting so that everyone participates, time is used efficiently, and the best thinking emerges from around the table?

Simple acts of warm hospitality make people comfortable, and open up people’s state of mind to more naturally trust and share. Focus throughout the meeting keeps people on track and allows for bright, creative thinking to emerge. Good habits of discourse allow no one voice to dominate and all voices to be heard creating environments of collegiality and creativity.

To get the best thinking from all the people make a habit of Rounding.

Rounding is simple.  You set 3 expectations and ask a question:

1.       “We are going to go around the circle and hear from everyone in turn.”

2.       “Hold your questions and comments until we are done going around the room.”

3.       “Be concise with your comments, as we will have a deeper dive once we finish the round.” (You can even set a time limit for everyone. 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes, depending on the depth of thinking you are trying to bring into the room.)

Then, ask your question, and start your round!

One more tip for successful rounding, if you have an important problem to solve, send the question the day before so that the people who prefer to think through problems more thoroughly have the time to do so. This ensures equitable participation by everyone at the table.

What experience are you giving people when you show up?  Stop to think about how you and your habits are landing on your team, your colleagues, your leaders.   

Take a moment and design one of your interactions today. Simply stop and think about how you could best approach a situation. Look at it from the point of view of the other person.

Is there something you can change to better communicate? Think it through and try something new.


Freeze Frame…!

OK queue the J. Geils band. It’s time to catch one of your current or rising stars doing something well and tell them. In other words, actively practice the art of appreciation.

The Art of Appreciation

Most leaders, when asked, will quickly tell you how much they appreciate their team members.  They’ll even give specific examples of the types of things that they do that they appreciate so much.  However, their team members might not necessarily know this. Why is that the case? 

Research from Leadership IQ stated that in 42% of companies the most engaged employees are actually the lowest performers.  This happens when top performers are underappreciated and low performers, as research says, “have fallen in love with their cushy jobs” and don’t realize just how poorly they are performing. 

It is important to grasp that leaders should use a more effective ratio of appreciation to correction with the right people, doing the right things to improve results. In other words, there is no participation trophy.

Some research, conducted by Emily Heaphy and Marcial Losada, suggests that the average ratio of feedback for the highest-performing teams was 5.6 (that is, nearly six positive comments for every negative one). The medium-performance teams averaged 1.9 (almost twice as many positive comments than negative ones). But the average for the low-performing teams was 0.36 to 1, almost 3 negative comments for every positive one. (HBR, The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman)

Don’t be caught “Culturally Overdrawn”
Many leaders have indicated that, regardless of what research shows, their experience with the ratio of multiples of praise to criticism works like a bank account. If we make enough positive “deposits” we don’t end up with a relational deficit when the inevitable challenging feedback comes. Don’t be caught with “Culturally Insufficient Funds.”

Sharing appreciation in public shows the team that the leader is present and engaged. It helps build trust and morale. If you are “too busy” to do this, think again. How each leader expresses appreciation is as varied as there are leaders. However, some basic guidelines are:

·       Be Timely

·       Be Specific

·       Be Public

·       Be Unarguable

·       Be Real

So, take out your real or imaginary “management camera” and go out and get some Freeze Frames of people doing their jobs well and share them. You can even play some J. Geils in the background if you want.