The Power of Perspective
Updated: Aug 25, 2020
In the swim leg of triathlons, it’s an aquatic battlefield.
Perspective is a powerful thing – in triathlon swimming and in business – if only we consistently choose the course that allows us to keep sight of it.
Power of Perspective in Business
A few weeks ago, a leader came into our scheduled 1:1 meeting with a figurative bloody nose, a kick in the head and lost goggles. She was so caught up in her effort to please everyone in reacting to the tyranny of the urgent, she had lost perspective. In her first sentence, she confessed her temptation to cancel our meeting. However, once she sat down, she began to realize her need to swim outside of the frenzied pack – if for only an hour – just to regain her sighting and stroke.
The difficult decision for her that day was to choose to take the time to regroup and reset. Realizing after our first few minutes of conversation that time was one of the few things in her world she could control, she grabbed it. She walked out of the meeting with a clearer head, a focus on what was most important vs. what was urgent, and a plan for creating the boundaries she needed to protect her strategic time as a leader. This week she shared the value of what she felt at the time were selfish moments, in light of the crazy cycle around her, by saying, “I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t taken that time to get a handle that day on what was really happening …”
The Work of Leadership: Getting on the Balcony
In their article The Work of Leadership, from Harvard Business Review, Heifetz and Laurie refer to this principle as “Getting on the Balcony.” They contrast it with being swept up in the continual field of play. They argue the best leaders move back and forth between the field of action and the balcony. By forfeiting balcony time, they argue, we lose sight of the bigger picture. Staying on the balcony for intermittent periods allows us to view patterns and to connect the dots on key issues like power struggles, work avoidance, or the most effective and proactive solutions to the real problems facing the business. Without this ability to move back and forth, a leader becomes a “prisoner of the system.”
How do we keep perspective, in the midst of sometimes unpredictable and unkind markets, acquisitions, and the launch of new products to fuel growth?
1- Recognize time is YOUR resource to allocate. You get to decide how you use it. Look at your calendar and it will tell you what’s important to you. How much time do you engage in strategic vs. tactical activities?
2- Never confuse being busy on the field as being productive or even most effective. You can react to everything that comes at you, while forfeiting your ability to be proactive and strategic.
3- Block and preserve time on your calendar to climb up on the balcony to see the bigger picture. Protect coaching sessions with your coach or leader, journal, read and take walks to clear your head when things seem most out of control. Take control of your time and the situation. Do the opposite of what you feel like doing based on the busyness around you.
An adaptive organization requires adaptive leaders. Make time daily and weekly to regain perspective on what’s really important to be a strategic difference-maker.