If you are in North America you probably recognize the picture on the left. It is of course Niagara Falls as seen from the Canadian side. You may not recognize the picture on the right which is also Niagara Falls, but seen from the perspective of the U.S. side. The same falls – two different perspectives.
A couple of years ago I was working in Buffalo, New York and one of my colleagues suggested we go see the falls since I had never seen them. I have to admit I was a little disappointed when we got there. It was not what I expected because all the pictures I had seen were taken from the Canadian side – and we couldn’t go across to view the falls from the Canadian side because I didn’t have my passport with me. So I was quite excited last month when I had the opportunity to visit the falls on the Canadian side – and they did not disappoint.
As I compared the pictures I had taken from the two different banks of the same river, I was struck by how much of life is a matter of perspective. And by how much ability we have to choose and change the perspective from which we view the different aspects of our life. It’s all about where we choose to place our focus.
In his CD, “It’s All Made Up” Rick Tamlyn tells the story of having a job he hated. He complained bitterly about the job and everything that was wrong with it to his coach. Finally his coach demanded that he name one thing he liked about the job. As Rick tells the story, it took him awhile but eventually he came up with one thing and then another and another until he moved from hating the job to tolerating it to liking it and actually being promoted. By changing his focus he was able to change his entire experience.
So how do you change your perspective and more importantly how, as a leader, can you help your team change their perspective?
Start by asking the question: “What else could be true?” I was working with a leader recently who was quite frustrated with the performance of one of her team members. She believed the team member was purposefully stalling and causing deadlines to be missed so that she (the leader) would look bad. I asked her the question, “What else could be true?” This question helped the leader look at the situation from the perspective of her staff member as well as from the perspective of an outside observer. She was able to move to the position that perhaps the staff member wasn’t trying to make her look bad but simply did not have the training necessary to do what she was asking him to do and was afraid to ask for help. From this perspective she was able to provide the staff member the coaching and training he needed to do the job.
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