I think it would be fascinating to create a movie theater where each theater shows the story from a different perspective. You could pick and choose which character you want to view the story through–what does one character pay attention to that another is totally unaware of? Who does one character love while another despises? How does the ‘villain’ or the ‘hero’ act through the eyes of one character vs. another? Would we leave such an experience with a different story for ourselves? Would we see the reality of this power of perspective in our own lives?
I would hope we’d leave that experience and get that the ‘other’ sees different things than we do. Not better, not worse—just different. And that those differences in how we see and experience the world drive our decisions, our actions, and our reactions.
As leaders, if we are to help our teams to gain alignment—both in our attitudes and our actions—we need to understand that others will have totally different reactions. What we find cool or exciting, others might find scary. Or dull. Too often we only react to their reaction instead of researching it to understand what they see that we don’t.
I was with a client this week who HATED an idea I had. It would have been super easy for me to defend the idea, to explain all the reasons I thought it would work or was perfect. Or I could have just moved on, letting that one hit the cutting room floor—”C’est la vie!” as my mother would say. I’ve done both of those things at other times. This particular time, I stopped to ask: what about the idea is disagreeable? Turns out, it wasn’t the idea per se, but what I had called it. And not just what I had called it but the feeling that was called to mind based on what I called it—one of old, staid, corporate-speak; been-there-done-that when we were looking for new, fresh, innovative. As we played with it a bit, the idea took a slightly different shape. It still might hit the cutting room floor, but I learned a lot through that interaction about what was important to her that will inform the rest of the work we do together. I needed to see the idea the way she saw the idea… not the way I saw it. Obviously, I wouldn’t have suggested it if I thought it was terrible. She saw something I didn’t, and I learned more about what mattered to her and what she understood about the people this idea would impact than I would have otherwise.
Often when someone sees something different than we do, we take it as our job as leaders to ‘help’ them see it our way. Maybe instead, it’s time to pause and see what they’re paying attention to. Maybe there’s another way. Maybe there’s something we missed. Maybe we haven’t communicated our idea as clearly as we’d like to. Stopping to ask what they’re noticing or seeing will help us to clarify or maybe even upgrade to something better. Just this one question—what are you seeing or noticing that you think I’m missing?—asked with genuine curiosity and an open mind, will build more trust and maybe even a better idea.