As leaders who are actively seeking to have a positive impact, leaders who genuinely want to understand and support their team members as unique individuals, we must expand our universe. We must engage with the world in ways that will help us view it through different lenses.
What can we do to help us gain more of that perspective?
Think about it. When was the last time you did that? When was the last time that you exchanged ideas with someone outside of your field of expertise?
It doesn't happen that often.
Reality is, individuals in the same field tend to read the same books, speak to the same people, attend the same conferences. And so, we find ourselves living in this microcosm. Which means we need to step out of that to gain more perspective.
To keep growing as leaders, it's important to also engage in business conversations with those outside our field of expertise, to learn more about how they operate their business, how they overcame their challenges.
Of course, the operational aspects of the day-to-day of running the business itself are probably not the same. And the exact solutions that they implemented probably won't work for your own organization. But running a business has a lot of the same basics. And we run into a lot of the same challenges.
Even if the details don't quite apply in our own businesses, often just talking through the challenges with another business owner will help spark ideas. At least, it will help us brainstorm. It will give us something to talk about, to focus on, to explore and help our creative minds come up with something different. So try and find a business group to join or a coach to speak with to obtain some fresh perspective.
Another resource at our disposal is team members. Whenever you have a meeting with a team member, take an extra moment to do some form of check-in with the intent to get to know them.
Not so much “Where are your reports?” and “What's the status on this thing?” but more about finding out who they are as people. What they are doing. What they are looking forward to as individuals. Try to learn a little bit more about them.
Building on that idea, if you have a weekly meeting, try to incorporate a part of it where the real purpose is to get to know each other a little bit better. Have that opportunity for members to exchange with each other. To share on a more personal level. I'm not saying sharing everything that's happening in all aspects of our lives, but maybe they'll share a meal that they made and perhaps that's different, or maybe they'll share an event that they're going to that is specific to where they are.
Get that conversation going. Even if it’s two team members who disagree about something and then have a very healthy conversation about what that might be.
And, in those instances, be the moderator. It might be tempting to jump in and share “all the things” too. Yes, share. As a leader, it's important to also share because you want the team to get to know you as well. And you also bring something to the table. It's very important that you also share, but, at the same time, try to not spend too much time talking but rather listening and learning from the team members. Learning how they view things, what they're interested in, their perspective, etc.
Another way to get perspective, and this one is maybe the more obvious one, is by experiencing other cultures and languages.
One way, of course, is traveling if and when possible. And it doesn't have to be taking a vacation and traveling. But even traveling and working from elsewhere for a couple of weeks or even a month. Taking the time to explore during off hours and learning and absorbing.
Maybe part of that could be learning a new language. Even if you just stay home and you decide to learn a new language. There are a lot of apps and options that could help you learn that new language. And, in doing so, you likely will be exposed to that culture because as you start learning a new language, you also learn how the language is built and how it differs from your own. It therefore offers an interesting perspective.
Another aspect is to explore foods. Yes, if you’re traveling, try local foods, but even in your own area. Are there places that offer meals that are culturally different than your own?
If perhaps you don't have the time or the interest to learn a new language, what about reading translations of popular books from other countries? In storytelling, they usually describe how people live, the environment. Even reading a novel that has been translated from another language still reflects the culture.
In the same vein, watch a foreign film. With subtitles you get to hear the rhythm of the language and the sounds. But a dubbed version would still be helpful if available. Again, this helps broaden our perspective.
In my own experience, I had a team member of a specific culture. And I was getting mixed messages. I wasn't really understanding. I felt like the person was disagreeing with me a lot. But what I discovered while watching movies from that person's culture and first language was that there are certain body movements that are specific to their culture. And what that actually meant was that they did agree with me, but because it is different than my own reference point, I thought that it meant that they were disagreeing.
That was an absolutely wonderful eye-opening moment. I understood what that movement meant. And I was able to bring it up and talk about it in a very positive manner. And we had a wonderful conversation about it.
At the end of the day, as the name implies, being a people-centric leader requires us to understand people. And to be successful at it, to be that leader who has a positive impact on the team, who has a positive impact on clients, on organizations as a whole, on business as a whole, and maybe, in a small way, having that positive impact on the way future leaders show up, that demands that we develop. That we sustain and grow a leadership mindset that is other focused. It demands that we expand our own views on the world. It demands that we gain more perspective.