One of Gambit’s founding principles is to create a wonderful place to work. From the get-go, we have kept our focus on people’s well-being. One key element in achieving this is something I like to call “the perspective of me”.
Why personal reality isn’t the same as factual reality
One of the hardest things to do, both as a leader and a human being, is to be able to understand different perspectives in any given situation. Understanding another person’s perspective is different from the empathic, instinctual understanding of another person’s state of mind. It is also different from the logical reasoning of trying to calculate what drives a person’s motivation in this instant. To fully understand the perspective of another person one would need to take into account all the experience, beliefs, emotional strata and circumstances surrounding a specific situation. I can’t do that. It’s too complex. What I do, and urge you to start doing, is to make an effort. To actually listen and try to understand where this person is coming from, sometimes literally speaking.
Everyone sees the world from their own perspective. Perspective is what forms a person’s perception of reality and affects their actions. Reality is how things actually are, but a person’s reality (Personal Reality) is what the person thinks and feels it is, given the circumstances. In order to take the first steps towards a better understanding of others and yourself, I would like to raise awareness of three common perspectives, starting with the most obvious.
My own perspective: Me, myself and I
My own perspective is what I feel, what I believe in, what I want. This one is by far the easiest to get a grip on, even though, sometimes you might not even understand your own reasoning or emotions. But that’s the base line: An imperfect understanding of our own perspective.
In my opinion our own perspective is not something that needs to be nurtured. We are all born with an innate sense of self-preservation and self-interest. Too much focus on this just leads to selfishness and it is my conviction that especially modern leaders need to be benevolent facilitators rather than self-obsessed dictators.
The other person’s perspective: Trying on new shoes
The second common perspective is the other person’s point of view. It’s tough to get it right since we simply lack all of the necessary data but asking the right questions in your mind points you in the right direction. Try to draw on what you know about the person; do you have knowledge of at least some of the background, upbringing, values, experiences or challenges that might colour their view of the world? How would you feel if you were in their shoes?
In this case, practise doesn’t make perfect, but you will improve if you put yourself through the process of asking, listening and reflecting. If you do, you might learn that the reason you are not understanding each other isn’t that the other person is a jerk or a wilfully ignorant baby. It might be that the person thinks you know something that you don’t. You might even be talking about two completely different things, because you came into the discussion with different perspectives of what the discussion would be about.
Empathic persons and leaders have a head start into this game but going too deep into the other persons point of view might lead to a negative influence as well. You might lose focus on the facts and start to feel the same as the other person. Finding the balance between emotionally staying on the surface (just not “getting it”) and going too deep into the other person’s emotional vortex is key here.
The external perspective: Observing from the outside
The third common perspective helps in this balance. This is the external perspective: the perspective of an observer, watching both you and the other person. The point of this perspective is to be almost emotionally detached, observing the facts and relationship between yourself and the other. Questions worth asking yourself are; What are the facts? What are the actual circumstances that led us here?
Delving too deep into this perspective in a conversation can make you come across cold, as a factual mediator and nothing else. To the other party it might seem like you don’t care or isn’t even participating in the discussion. However, this perspective stays true to the real world, the facts, and is such a necessary neutral ground from which a reasonable compromise can be built.
Changing the perspective
Keeping the different perspectives in mind, it might be interesting to try this simple exercise. Stand up and hold out your arm slightly from your body, index finger pointing upwards, roughly at chest level so that you are looking down on your finger. Now start moving your hand in a clockwise circle. Continue to move your hand in the same circular direction, raise it above your head and keep looking at it. Observe that your hand and index finger is now moving counter-clockwise, not clockwise, from your new perspective.
First off, just talking openly about the fact that there are different perspectives to consider with your colleagues, family, friends etc. can raise the awareness and help deter misunderstandings in the future. We’ve done this successfully at Gambit during 2020 and noticed that it’s easier to communicate if more people understand that one’s personal reality isn’t the same as your perceived reality.
Secondly, it is also exceptionally important to note that each perspective is valid and worth considering. To succeed in this, you need to develop the ability to move between the different perspectives and consider them for what they are. Because that is what builds understanding. Understanding in turn leads to compromises and the ability to grow and progress, both as persons, leaders and businesses.
Author: Tim Wallin, CEO, Gambit