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The ability to consider perspective is one of the many aspects that make us human. We develop this amazing ability between the ages of 2 and 7. Considering the perspective of others deepens our interactions, broadens our knowledge and allows us to explore a wider horizon while decision making. It protects us from tunnel vision and echo chambers. How, and to what extent are you utilising perspective-taking in your workplace?
Perspective-taking requires us to use our prefrontal cortex and some posterior areas of the brain to try to establish the point of view, the thoughts and the feelings of others, given a certain situation. It’s a key component of empathy and relies on our past experiences and interpretation of context to arrive at an appreciation of the world as another person experiences it. Bringing together perspectives is the true powerhouse of a team.
As a leader drawing out perspectives is our responsibility and requires an environment of psychological safety. Each team member has a completely unique picture of the world with each additional perspective adding a new dimension. Are you truly considering perspective within your leadership skillset? Enter perspective seeking.
It’s rare to hear Apple TVs Ted Lasso feature in an article about leadership but one quote introduces perspective-seeking perfectly:
“Be curious, not judgemental" - Walt Whitman
When we seek the perspectives of others, we ask questions: “I’m not sure I’m following, can you tell me more”, we go from leader to learner. We encourage agency and critical thinking from our team. Our team feel listened to and start to trust us more, they start to become interested in our perspective too.
Perspective seeking is the opposite of agreement, it is seeking to understand and explore. Newspapers are a nice example. A newspaper is often chosen because of our alignment with the political bias of the publication. Imagine if we chose a newspaper with the intention of better understanding those with whom we disagree, we would start to understand the behaviours of others and we would begin to have more honest, meaningful interactions.
Only when we seek the perspective of our team do we gain full situational awareness, because until perspective-taking becomes perspective-seeking, we are still portraying our picture of the world on others. These conversations and interactions are not about agreeing or placating, they’re about learning, and we must be prepared to acknowledge perspective, and sometimes explain why we’re not going in a certain direction. To seek perspective is to understand people's ‘why’, and we can’t ‘start with the why’ if we don’t take the time to understand it.
Before we speak, before we decide, consider “Do I perspective seek? Do I go beyond assuming the perspective of my team and take time to understand why they see a situation that way, better informing my ability to make decisions.” You may just find your interactions flourish and your trust soars, but if nothing else you may be surprised how much you learn.
“We can’t ‘start with the why’ if we don’t take the time to understand it”
If you would like to know more, we can share our resources with you. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.