Leadership Perspectives – Where Does OUR Viewpoint Live?

by Micki Lewis, MS-MOB, PCC

Skyscraper Penthouse| Mid-level Condo | 1-Story Ranch

Where do our viewpoints live?  What’s our personal perspective?  Are we seeing things objectively or subjectively?  How do we adapt our personal vantage point to the interpretation of others AND undertake quick shifts in the environment especially with unanticipated changes?  How might we teach others how to view situations at different elevations?

Just got off the phone with a senior level coaching client.  In the past few days, he had been bombarded with frustrations and grumblings from his associates stemming from changes and unforeseen circumstances related to a specific project – (shhh … it’s a holiday party)!

(so… great… a story about whiners)!

No… this story about ONE leader and his rapid ability to shift HIS perspective while we were in our coaching session.   AND… how quickly a positive outcome emerged within minutes!  Hmmmm, sounds like he’s activating his Emotional Intelligence!

Here we go!

Immediately before our coaching session, Joe (not his real name) had heard negative whispering from a handful of disgruntled employees running a special project. Major decisions had been made and changed without their consent and without being involved in the process.  This group had put a lot of time, energy and effort into this project.  Abruptly due to time constraints and with no project Team collaboration, Sr. Management took over producing swift changes to the ones they made. Not good.

Being super-bright, Joe immediately categorized, ranked and shared his thoughts and how he was seeing these obstacles of being “of such small scale” compared to the big picture and responsibilities of running the business.

As we began, we discussed various levels of responsibility and decision-making instances the associates “truly owned.”  We all know leaders at various levels in the organization make certain decisions based on that format.  The real question here is how many decisions do we offer those who have not yet risen in the ranks, moved up or moved laterally or seek to grow while being in non-managerial position for them to REALLY make?  Answer:  Not many!

Putting ourselves in the associate’s shoes, we reflected, we can see HOW they see THEIR world.  Maybe we were there once before in our own lives? At what level, at what view or perspective do they see this same situation and over what do they have control?

Skyscraper Penthouse| Mid-level Condo | 1-Story Ranch

We all know there are certain people in an organization who want more, want to make a difference and be a part of something more, do more – some to be able to be a leader. Many times, our first line associates don’t have opportunities to make decisions and build up themselves as leaders or be a “go to” person to be counted upon and to be seen.  Because of where they live – their view is at the 1-Story Ranch Level!

This project was one opportunity to build the people to use numerous new skills, build the culture and focus on continuous improvement.  This opportunity to a place for them to shine and be known for accomplishing something important to the organization and for their peers. A way to be acknowledged.  By offering the opportunity to be a part of this group of like-minded people, it was a chance to be a part of a team to make things better and yes, let’s have fun too!

Challenge #1

This Project Group met and worked together diligently, researching and identifying the best location, date and time for the event. They made commitments to the venue. And, unfortunately, they put the Leadership Team into a jam.  Decisions made by the team bumped up against a generous budget given.  They were overbudget not by a little, by a lot – by thousands!  And … virtually no communication ensued to share their challenges with leaders before committing and agreeing to the site.

Challenge #2

Then, suddenly, another leader who had heard about the situation, and had “special contacts,” swooped in, worked with the senior leader and changed the venue and date without including this same team who was managing the project. He just took over ran the information pulled together with the Sr. Leader to then make quick decisions.  His view was Mid-Level just to get things done.

This brought the team running the project to true frustrations.  The water cooler was HOT with discontent.  They were disheartened with all the work they had put into it – whoosh gone in a moment! The big guy (Sr. Leader) hearing about the situation, in his mind, knew he had to address it somehow as not to get out of hand.

We coached around getting this group together, around the agenda of what to say and do.  First thoughts… does he apologize? take the straight and narrow view, the hardline? Something like… this is what it is, OR might he be able to see things from a different perspective?

Our project team is looking at things from the ground floor – the Ranch-Level – First Story Point of View.  It’s what affects them, what bothers them. Our Mid-Level and Penthouse view is not where they live. The Mid – leader who found the new location just thought he was doing the team a favor and since he had so many contacts, he could easily get it done – Mid-Level View.  The Sr. Leader thought he had to do something to calm this chaos – Penthouse View.

And…It is our job as leaders to teach our teams to observe situations from different perspectives.

Skyscraper Penthouse| Mid-level Condo | 1-Story Ranch

Sr. Level   |   Mid-Manager   |   Associate


The Constant Internal Struggle

We as leaders experience and might be thinking (to ourselves of course) WE are always the fall guy (person)!  We are to blame if things don’t go rightEverything rests on our solders.  In essence that is true, yet we really do want to give up control and offer more bandwidth to others?  Do we want them to learn and take more risks – YIKES!!!  make mistakes (not on my watch).

  • What is the culture of risk-taking at our organization?
  • How can we create a safe space to allow opportunities to make mistakes happen?

There isn’t ONE person to blame though someone HAS TO BE THE ONE who makes a decision.  Others may not agree with our decision and many times we are the ones bringing bad news. How might we shift that?  What can we do to engage the group participants/leaders more, so they are more willing to partner with us as leaders?

It goes back to the environment, the culture of our organization.  How are we setting them up more agile, flexible types of success?


We all know these things… how are we moving them into heightened action?   Get more involved!       The 5 minutes Challenge:

  • Check in with the team, better yet, have the team schedule more formalized 5-minute check-in points to hear about the status of the project.
  • Be sure to have the team select co-leaders or have a backup so if one person is unavailable – the other is available – they must overcommunicate with each other as well!
  • Continually find ways to demonstrate the different perspectives: Share more about how others can view the project at a higher level – a more strategic point of view.

Ask this hundreds of times:  How does OUR project affect our Organization, our Team and Ourselves.

We want our teams to be engaged, excited, eager to be learning more about leadership at the ground level.  Up popped some opportunities for those things and for people to evolve.  As much as we as leaders want these opportunities to be a of a development type.  We could be doing this right now… and may have to share even more insight as to what our expectations may be.  I call it over-communication!

During our coaching time together, Joe shifted the way he saw the situation.  His plan was to bring all those affected by the changes together.  He was going to apologize and take the blame for the decisions that needed to be made (due to time and budget constraints) that changed the planned project.

Instead, he started seeing the concerns from their point of view.  What could we have done differently? We talked about those on this project team who want to grow and how that approach is being handled right now.  Asking the team is it a learning experience or a negative experience from doing all the legwork and research and presenting it to the senior team with the anticipated answer of NO we can’t to an opportunity where each would learn, and it is having a positive outcome.

Joe’s agenda shifted too.  His focus was now all about acknowledgement for all the work they did and this meeting being a time to brainstorm ideas for the future.  The time of the year was excellent – the new year was starting shortly.

In less than 40 minutes, Joe shifted his thought process, changed his agenda to one more embracing the team, learning, future ideas and positiveness.  Yes, he had to share some disappointing news, AND, well we know, CHANGE is one of the most difficult competencies that is ONE of the most important with being a leader – the ability to quickly adapt and lead in changing worlds.

Can’t wait to hear how “the project” (holiday party) turned out, how the team and the leader handled the change and what creative ideas the Team has for next year!



Contact Micki for more on learning to shift your perspective up and down from ground floor to penthouse!