What’s Your Perspective?

Enhance Your Perception

When I was studying art history in college, one of the first things I learned was a key point about the Renaissance. Europe’s emergence from the Middle Ages was marked by the introduction of perspective to painting.

That doesn’t sound like much, but when you see the difference between the flat planes of works by Giotto (on the left) contrasted with deeper, dimensional masterpieces like Raphael’s School of Athens (on the right), the contrast is striking.

Giotto: Joachim's Dream

Source: www.giottodibondone.org

Raphael: School of Athens

Source: www.webexhibits.org

One look and the difference is clear: adding perspective is transformative.

I hadn’t given that concept much thought for a while, until a colleague’s comments about his experiences with emergency medical care caught my attention the other day.

Sadly, “Ed” had a catastrophic experience with a family member’s medical care a few years ago that lead to her untimely death. Recently, when it came time to seek emergency care for his elderly father, the veil of fear and suspicion created by those earlier events remained.

Where Ed saw excessive spending on unnecessary tests, I saw an abundance of caution and attention to detail from a team of skilled medical professionals. My perspective was different because I did not experience what Ed went through.

My views are also colored by the fact that my husband is an emergency medical professional. I’ve seen his commitment to patient care and personally experienced his selflessness on all the holidays, nights and weekends he worked in the ER, sacrificing time with family to ensure that people who needed urgent care would get it.

Ed and I have different perspectives, and we drew different conclusions.

Every View is Unique

Apply this to the business environment and you can see that individual perspectives can make a world of difference. People bring their own point of view to work based on things ranging from cultural differences to education, political views, family history and their own personal experience.

Add personalities to the mix and no two people will see the same issue in precisely the same way. That’s a recipe for disagreement and miscommunication if we’re not open and receptive to a variety of viewpoints.

While being sensitive to others is important, even more vital is understanding our own biases and assumptions. What we bring to the table in our own minds can undermine collaboration, innovation and relationships if we’re not careful.

The next time you’re confronted with a conflict or a difficult situation, ask yourself two questions:

1) What is shaping my perspective right now?

2) How might the other party see things?

Together, these questions can form the basis of a healthy dialogue that uncovers preconceived ideas on both sides. Shifting from confrontation to conversation can open the door to a new and shared perspective that will accelerate your business success.

Be Wary of Assumptions

Assumptions can help or harm business leaders. When they’re accurate, we marvel at the executive’s intuition and insight. When they’re not, hindsight shines a bring light on the error in judgement.

To avoid the latter, check your assumptions for any perspectives that are throwing you off. Do you see things as clearly as you should? If not, is your personal perspective in the way?

Our perceptions can easily be shaped by things we hear, like rumors and rumblings around the office, as well as what we see versus what we expect.

A disheveled employee might lack concern for personal grooming, they could be dealing with personal issues or perhaps, they simply discovered that their iron died right before they headed out the door. Make an assumption on the fly and you could very well be wrong.

Get A Clear Perspective

If you think your perception may be colored by bad assumptions, step back for a moment. Approach from another angle to get a clearer view. Explore why you see things the way you do and you may uncover a bias or preconceived notion that you need to discard.

In the end, sharpening our focus can hep us appreciate what we see, adding depth and dimension we would otherwise miss. Paying attention to perspective will make you a more discerning leader.

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