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Can I Borrow Your Glasses?

Recently, I was sitting in a restaurant with a group of friends. One of my friends left his reading glasses in his car. When he strained in a desperate attempt to read the menu, I smiled and offered my glasses. Apparently, his desire to save a trip to the car was sufficient motivation to give them a try. My prescription was less precise than he expected. After a little effort, he was able to make out the words and order his meal.

Problem solved. There was another solution. I could have read the menu to him and offered some suggestions. After all, I could see the menu very clearly. My friend’s choice to decipher the entrees through a mismatched prescriptive lens reminds me of a behavior that plagues many leaders today. Sometimes leaders base decisions on their own limited or distorted perspective rather than choosing to pursue the viewpoint of others.

Research provided by McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index suggests that one of the most important behaviors for effective leadership is “seeking different perspectives.” Why do leaders choose to “go it alone?” What are the mental roadblocks that prevent leaders from taking advantage of the value of different perspectives?

Well, they are different.

Blame it on our internal desire to relieve tension. It’s easier to make choices without having to resolve dissonance. Seeking other perspectives take practice and requires a certain level of maturity. Mature leaders learn to embrace creative tension that leads to better information. Often the best decisions are born after open and honest debate over differing perspectives.

It takes more time.

No doubt, time is a leaders most valuable resource. Why take the time to seek different perspectives? The payoff does not show up in short term efficiency. Gathering input from others is an investment that yields many long-term benefits. When leaders seek differing perspectives and truly value the input they receive, they build consensus and ownership.

Listening is not as rewarding as action.

It’s easy to become addicted to quick, decisive action. Leaders are results oriented and results require action. Frankly, the internal payoff for making a decision is much more potent than the rewards of listening to people who see things differently. The benefits of seeking out different perspectives require an open mind and a fair amount of discipline. Listen, understand and then act.

We all have Blind spots

It’s fairly easy to become self-convinced of the right decision when alternatives are never considered. The most insidious personal quality of a blind spot is ignorance. You don’t see what you don’t see. You don’t know what you don’t know. The most dangerous organizational quality of a blind spot is knowledge. Others see what you don’t see. Others know what you don’t know. The remedy is straightforward. Seek different perspectives and reduce blind spots.

Contact InitiativeOne to learn how our Leadership Transformation Process helps leaders overcome blind spots.


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