Perspective on perspective. Understand it, and use it wisely.

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"People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for." Judge Taylor. 
"You never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view....until you climb into his skin and walk around in it" Atticus Finch
To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee. 

I wonder how many of you, if I asked about perspective, would put your hand up in the air to confirm you have either been told to get some ( at some point) or perhaps helpfully told someone else to get some?

I would wager it would be a lot of waving hands. 

I also wonder, if I asked, how many of you would put your hand up in response to having been told that "Perspective is everything" or "First impressions count" at some point ( maybe several points in your career or life) ?

Resonate much? Annoy you much? 

Me too. 

So lets deep think this for a moment or two. What is perspective then? and why are we corporate slaves to it? 

According to the Wikipedia dictionary, Perspective is "a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something, a point of view"

Let's unpack this for a minute starting with this part - a particular "attitude".


Now, I wonder if your manager when giving you feedback had said " you need to find a new attitude....." or "please address your attitude" ....I wonder how that would go down?

I am betting not too well. I am also betting that if you took a friend or employee aside and told them to respect someone else's might not be received as sage advice either, certainly not if they firmly believe their own perspective, and you are stuck in yours.

Second part - " a point of view"  

Imagine getting some feedback that a Senior Executives  "point of view' is everything , or that "first impressions count" and that apparently this is the reason why you missed out on a promotion or an opportunity.  

Unfair? Yup, pretty much. 

Someone else's perspective is just one point of view. We acknowledge that too many times in current hierarchical structures that person often  has power and influence;  but really how can anyone justify judgement or decision making simply on their "initial point of view". How on earth do you prepare for something you cannot see, cannot feel and cannot investigate ahead of time. Even armed with a biography, you just don't know if the person you need to get on side got out of bed on the right side that morning. 

I am pretty sure if I lined up a cross section of some of the most senior leaders of Australian Organisations in a room they would all espouse the virtues of Transformational, Adaptive, Agile, Inclusive Leadership. None of which is reliant on a single point of view. 

Yet, curiously in complete contrast, the same Leaders no doubt have at some point, advocated the use of "perspective" as a way to correct, mentor or coach others in the ways of political maneuvering their way through a situation, problem or opportunity, or to defend their decisions about the fate of employees. 

What the??? That makes no sense, how on earth is anyone going to succeed when they have no idea what they are up against? 

Seems somewhat ridiculous now we look at this way doesn't it.

Lucky for us the Collins English Dictionary has a different definition

Perspective : A particular perspective is a particular way of thinking about something, especially one that is influenced by your beliefs and experiences. 

Unpacking this one, indicates that judgment based on 'personal perspective' is heavily biased, "influenced by your beliefs and experiences". Not really a good foundation for making well considered decisions or giving people advice or feedback is it? 

My challenge to you all, is to cease the madness of overusing "perspective" as an excuse for trying to explain action or inaction, or to influence behavior in others and in ourselves. Refer back to the Judge Taylor quote above, this is exactly the folly he ( via the pen of the wise Harper Lee)  is referring to. 

Instead, let us work towards the practice espoused by Ms Lee using her character Atticus Finch in the second quote;  that of using "perspective" as a tool for our own thinking and in the act of personal reflexive leadership. In other words, consider perspective for yourself , not others. 

Take time out to actually understand that you may have considered only 1 point of view, and that it is not the end state. Understand you have bias, that led you to a judgement, and this may not be appropriate or accurate. Be curious to think about whether your perspective matters, should matter or could matter. Consider if delivering a judgement based on your single perspective is moral, ethical and reasonable. Respect difference, think deeply. When in doubt, take pause and have others "not like you, nor the friends who are always agreeing with you" help you see things from other angles. Is perspective a good enough reason or is it an excuse?

The golden rule of course, is to never use "Perspective" as a reason to judge others or justify a behavior. 

think well