Are You Sufficiently Open to Different Perspectives?

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Topics: Leaders

And How Coaching Can Help…

I received a phone call from a new client last week who shared how much stress he was under on account of his boss. Jim (let’s say) has enjoyed a successful career and is now VP of Operations in a large technology firm at the age of 38. “My boss is a pain. He says he doesn’t micromanage but then he goes directly to my staff without informing me.” I listened to Jim and could sense his frustration. Who wouldn’t be annoyed if someone is undermining you?

Fortunately, there are different ways of looking at Jim’s situation. I gathered from the responses to a few questions Jim feels his work involves wrestling with competing priorities, inadequate staffing levels and poor communication across the company’s numerous divisions. “I can’t get proper traction here. We have problems with marketing. Problems with fulfillment. Problems all round.The results speak for themselves: we missed our quarterly goals – again”. Jim volunteered he was seeking coaching help to figure out whether he should stay or leave the company to do something else.

Jim isn’t the only person I have run across recently who feels stressed. There are many people in leadership roles these days trying to navigate a lot to keep their organizations or departments thriving in an uncertain, ever-changing environment. Jim may have been successful when there was more of a clear path but the landscape out there for many is pretty bumpy.

Jim and I met up this week and I invited Jim to consider how his situation might be perceived by others. What might someone say looking at his Department from afar? What might his boss’s stance be? Within half an hour Jim was able to acknowledge the situation was complicated, and his observations were not without some humor: “I need to grow up a bit, that’s all”!

Jim’s comments reminded me of a great book I read by Jennifer Garvey Berger called ‘Changing on the Job’ about #Adult Development Theory, and its relevance to coaching leaders. When Jim spoke about the complications in his day to day work, I was curious to know whether he could tap into different perspectives and recognize the complexity was a new landscape for him. Garvey Berger speaks to “self capacity” and the different ways of understanding the world we live in. When the tasks are simple and routine, our capacity for handling complexity does not need to be high. Most leaders like Jim, however, are faced with constant complexity which is where perspective matters. Or, to be more accurate, to be able to tap different perspectives, including our own, and to recognize the choices we have to take another.

In Jim’s case, his perspective stocktake has resulted in his commitment to talk with his boss – this time with more of an open mind about the perspective he might be choosing to take!

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