We’re all in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat! I recently read this in a social media posting and thought, what a brilliant metaphor for perspective. For some in our community, this pandemic is a mere inconvenience while occupying an estate room on a cruise ship. For others, it’s life-threatening, while bobbing around in a lifeboat short on preservers. Some businesses have thrived, their unique offerings in constant demand. Other companies have temporarily shuttered, contemplating closure or bankruptcy because they depend on customer throughput. You see, we’re in different boats riding out the same storm.
Public health officials continue to advocate isolation, social distancing, and slow societal reopening, which appeals to many in our community. On the other hand, business owners support opening now, keeping the community informed, and allowing individual good judgment to replace government directives. One perspective is we have to preserve life by doing all we can to contain the virus through social distancing and self-isolation. The other perspective is we have to maintain our livelihoods and learn how to live with the virus. Otherwise, the economic toll will create a far more significant loss of life than becoming infected by the virus. Both perspectives are valid. Both perspectives honor the value of life. Both perspectives have to be addressed by our leaders.
Perspective, the faculty of seeing all the relevant data in a meaningful way, is a discipline practiced by successful leaders. A 360-degree view is what we try to achieve — in other words, perfect knowledge. Whether we are developing business intelligence for the capture of an immense opportunity, or gaining insight into customer needs, or finding the right motivational button to push inspiring an under-performing employee or balancing strict social distancing controls with the day-to-day economic generation, we seek to broaden our perspective by hunting all the relevant data that minimizes risks and optimizes outcomes.
That’s where we are today. Public health officials are coursing over hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths, looking at the various nuances and threats posed by the virus, then modeling infection and mortality rates based on our approach to minimize exposure before a vaccine is in place. Concurrently, economists are coursing over hundreds of leading and lagging indicators, then modeling outcomes based on our approach to reopening businesses and the public’s reaction and adherence to social distancing. Different perspectives. Different boats. Same storm.
Desire and impediments
If we want to add depth to our leadership ability, expand our perspective, and watch our followership grow, we extend our perspective by actively listening, seeking to understand, and practicing empathy to those we engage with who hold different views. Gaining perspective is only limited by time and our desire. Impediments to seeking others’ perspectives lie within each of us, hidden in our implicit biases and lack of will.
We all have attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions unconsciously. We unknowingly act them out in the workplace, family, or social settings. These implicit biases, formed during our life’s journey, undoubtedly limit our perspective.
The second impediment, lack of will, is a hard nut to crack. This starts with our shallow listening, task-at-hand disengagement, or confrontation avoidance. For example, we often join meetings where one or more attendees are so anxious to offer their solution at the expense of listening to their teammates. They are so enamored with their electronic devices they don’t remain engaged on the task at hand. Instead of engaging another, they fire off an email or text to avoid what they perceive could be a confrontation. When we do these things, we lack the will to effectively communicate, missing essential and relevant information that may lead to an optimum solution.
So, what’s your perspective? Are you riding out the storm in a cruise ship leveraging the opportunities at hand, or are you in a lifeboat, taking on water, desperately trying to stay afloat? If the former, do you plan to exploit your opportunities and continue to thrive in the new normal? If you are the latter, do you have a plan to stay afloat through the multiple phases of the gradual business reopening gates, then thriving in the new normal? Do you guard against your implicit biases and have the will to broaden your perspective by seeking out others’?
We’re all riding out this storm, but not in the same boat. Be a leader, guard against your implicit biases, demonstrate the will to broaden your perspective, thus minimizing risk and optimizing outcomes. That’s how we lead, think, plan and act our way through this pandemic. Now, let’s get after it!
Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions.