Where are you taking your people? What kind of leader do you want to be? What kind of team do you want to lead? The experience you create is a product of the perspective you take.
About ten years ago I came home from watching a Bon Jovi concert in the fourth row with a client. It was an amazing experience being close enough to the band to see the wrinkles on Jon's face while he sang and the sweat on Richie's brow when he played. We spent the evening engulfed in a wall of sound and left the concert with the usual post-concert ringing in the ears.
Normally I would wake up the next day having fully recovered my hearing but the next morning the ringing was still in my ears. And it's still in my ears to this day. Every day for me is like I just left a rock concert. I am stuck with a constant, incessant, sometimes debilitating hissy tone emanating from inside my skull that I can't turn off. Ever. Silence is deafening. The condition is called tinnitus. Many people suffer from it and there is no cure–only a lifetime of looking forward to that ever present never ending sound.
But here's the thing. I don't always hear it. I only actually hear it when I'm thinking about it. I don't actually hear it most of the time, if I am engrossed in the flow of an activity.
There is a famous experiment that demonstrates the idea of selective attention. There are two teams of people tossing basketballs around and we are asked to count how many times the players in the white shirts pass the ball. If you have never seen the video watch it now (just over a minute). About 70% of people who do the test fail to see a man in a gorilla costume wander through the frame. The test is often cited as an illustration of cognitive blindness, but there is more going on there.
When I was in design school, I learned to draw objects in perspective to make them look like three dimensional objects. You will most likely recognize the object I've drawn in perspective below as a cube. Nothing special about that. Yet.
I ask my coaching clients to point out the front face of the cube and almost everyone picks this one:
There is nothing unexpected about this choice. Most people see the cube from this perspective. It gets interesting when I then ask them to pick out the other front face. Most of the time, people pick out the sides of the cube above but a smaller number of people pick the cube below, as I had primed them to look for it, just as the narrator had primed viewers of the gorilla video to watch for how many times the white team passed the ball. If I had asked you to see if you could spot the gorilla in the video you'd have had no problem with that.
With a minimal amount of practice you can go back to the first cube and switch back and forth between the two different perspectives.
Nothing is obvious until you know what you are looking for.
I don't see and hear everything and I don't see and hear what I do see and hear necessarily as they truly are. What I perceive through my eyes and ears is largely a result of my intention: what I want and what I don't want. And what I want and don't want is not always obvious.
I'd rather not spend the rest of life with ringing in my ears. That's a nightmare scenario for me. But when I put my attention on what I don't want, I just get more of it. The volume of the ringing goes up. When I put my attention on what I do want, the volume of the ringing fades into the background. That's the dream scenario.
The dream scenario and the nightmare scenario are the two perspectives I can take when looking through my eyes and listening through my ears at the world around me. They are like the two faces of the cube. I have the power to select the way I look at my world. I can look for opportunities or I can look for threats.
Whatever I look for I will find.
The power I have to change my perspective is the power I have to change my mind. If I operate from the belief that nothing will ever get better, the noise in my head rages on; all I will see is threats and all I will feel is afraid. If I change my mind to something else like there is an opportunity in every problem, I will tend to see those opportunities I let myself be blind to and I will tend to feel inspiration.
This is what it means to have vision. The point is not to have a cute but banal vision statement we can put on the website or hang behind the reception desk–"we are the leading such and such in such and such market." The point is to give the members of your team a core frame through which to view the market of customers and vendors. "This is who we are and who we are becoming." The core frame is a way to think about the growth of the business and way to prime the team to spot relevant opportunities.
I dream of a collective of innovative impact entrepreneurs working together to make this place a better place. Two of my people–Shane Evans and Rachel Mielke–helped us put our thoughts about realism and inspiration together in our 5th book. Order it here. It's a short read long on perspective.