Perspective and Reducing Assumptions in Leadership

As an effective leader, one of the key skills to develop is the ability to ask questions. More specifically, ask the right question at the right time. The key benefits of mastering this skillset are the additional perspective gained and the reduction in assumptions. This has power within leadership as it ensures you take into account other people’s perspective as well as your own.


CoachStation Leadership and Coaching - Perspective
Credit: Unsplash, Nadine Shabaana
To lead is to influence. To influence, understand…to understand, ask.

There is a connection between gaining perspective and displaying empathy, one of the cornerstone leadership traits. When you understand what someone else values; why they have said or done what they have; and/or their background, there is a likelihood of greater influence. This stems from less negative judgment and a willingness to see a situation beyond your own lens or perspective. In other words, stepping into someone else’s shoes and looking back at you…empathy. The risk of a lack of perspective and making assumptions are many.

Primarily when you attempt to influence solely from your own beliefs and views, in its extreme, is coercion.

This is damaging and unsustainable, both relationally and practically. Few people will willingly follow you when you are more concerned about your own perspective and values, without taking into account theirs.


Related: Life Choices – The Decision Tree


Removing assumptions through improved understanding provides a more solid basis for strength in your relationships. Many people will respect the fact that you are bothering to consider their views. Taking it a step further and doing something with this information, adds to the potential for aligning values and building depth in your relationships. This is connecting at a different level.

For me, there’s great value in recognizing different perspectives in conversations because these enable us to hear and react to things very differently. 

One of my close friends often says: “Change how a situation occurs to you, change how you will respond to the situation.” What is the distinction between perspective and reality? There are a lot of fun expressions around this topic. The easiest one is “my perspective is my reality,” but is this really true? Or is there a difference between the two?

Perspective is the way individuals see the world. It comes from their personal point of view and is shaped by life experiences, values, their current state of mind, the assumptions they bring into a situation, and a whole lot of other things. Reality can be different things. We can easily say that my perspective is my reality. There is truth to that statement. When we look at the shared reality of an event, though, the more perspectives you get, the closer to reality you get. As a leader, do you consider your own perspective as reality? (1)

The other aspect of perspective, is how we respond to situations. We have developed a process that has assisted many of our coachees and clients to gain perspective and a better balance regarding their own reactions.

The Perspective Scaling Process is a very useful tool and mindset to assist in finding an appropriate balance between immediate emotional responses and logical reactions.

To use this resource effectively, you need to establish a scale based on your own judgments first. Once established and with practice, all situations and moments can be quickly assessed against your initial scaling. Rarely is the situation actually as significant as your first emotional response would assume. That is how the process works. It finds a balance between your initial emotional response and places a sense of practical, logical thought to the moment. Let me explain the process.

The Perspective Scaling Process works on a 1 – 100 set of values, where 1 represents a very small incident or situation with next to no lasting impact. An example could be a paper-cut. A 100 would be the most damaging and worst outcome or scenario you could think of. Most people consider losing all of their family members in an accident as an extreme, yet relevant example.

Once you have set scale situations at either end relevant to you, work backwards by roughly 10 point increments and consider what situations would apply for each number.

A 90 may be losing an individual family member; an 80 a reasonably major car accident with lasting injuries; a 70 could be a divorce; a 60 based on being made redundant at work etc. Once you reach 20 your scale should be reflective of those things that occur more commonly and with a lesser impact. Single-figure circumstances should be things that have no lasting impact at all, possibly more frustrating than serious.

Now that you have established a ‘baseline’ it is important to keep referring back to the scale throughout the day, as situations occur. This is where the process comes into it own.

We quite regularly immediately respond to a moment or event in an overly emotional manner.

The challenge with primarily emotional responses, particularly when considering relationships is that it generally inflames a situation. It is out of proportion and is weighted too heavily to emotions, lesser to logic and pragmatism. An emotional response is quite normal and is part of being human. What may feel immediately is a ’50 or 60′, is quickly re-identified by applying the perspective scale as a lower number, commonly at a ’20’ or below. This ‘self-check’ then allows us to respond more appropriately and effectively.

Recognise that every emotion has a place. Having emotions is normal and expected. However, being overly-emotional on a consistent basis can be detrimental to your credibility, perception and effectiveness.

Learning to take control of immediate emotional responses is an important aspect of being emotionally intelligent. Through use of the perspective tool, you will strike a balance between the initial emotion-laden reaction and the purposeful logic that enables a balanced conversation and approach. With practice, you will be able to apply the Perspective Scaling Process within seconds. In fact, it is a great opportunity to pause and take a breath prior to responding.


Related: Relationships – Understand Your Team to Lead Effectively


Perspective is gained through understanding. That is, understanding of self and others. The most effective and simple way to improve understanding is to ask key questions. Positioning these questions in a way that makes it more about understanding and less about challenging perceptions take some of the heat out of the moment. It also demonstrates that you are listening to what has been said.

Depth in this skill come from paraphrasing and delving into the answers provided. This is what I call ‘layer 2 and 3 questioning’. Accepting the first response from someone generally provides little opportunity to truly understand. Without understanding, our assumptions commonly lead us to make incorrect decisions; see things only or primarily from our perspective or value-set; and similar, less effective responses.

When we see things primarily from our own perspective, it is difficult to genuinely influence others. Seeking understanding and caring about those closest to you, at work or home, builds trust, relationships and ability to influence.

How you demonstrate this care is up to you. However, taking the time to consider all views; seek understanding of what matters to you and others; providing appropriate context; and developing appropriate questioning skills are all ways to more meaningfully influence.

We show we care through our actions. What could you practice and do differently to more effectively influence those around you?


Don’t hesitate to contact CoachStation if you wish to discuss the Personal Values learning process or any other aspect of your development as a leader and person. We are always happy to meet new people and assist to improve capability and satisfaction.
CoachStation: Leadership Coaching, Mentoring and Development

Resources:

(1) Why Understanding Other Perspectives Is A Key Leadership Skill – Forbes

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