Perspective and perception are really rich and significant words.  Everything that we say and do (our behavior) is based on our perspective which effects our perception of each and every situation we encounter.

In my training and facilitation work, I remind participants of how complex people are.  I bring up the image of many layers of an onion.  Some of these layers are personality, generation, talents, skills, motivations, experience and more.  In general, our perspective contains all of these layers and we carry them with us all the time. In the past, I’ve heard people refer to what I’m describing as looking through a filter (like an air filter), but a filter eliminates or collects particles.  Perhaps a better way to think of these many facets of our unique self is a kaleidoscope of colors and prisms.  If we think about looking through this kaleidoscope as we approach any given situation (if you could see through it), we all bring these wonderful, colorful gems to a situation (our perspectives).

Now, these gems are wonderful and unique to us by themselves.  And only some of these gems are readily visible to our family, friends and colleagues.  Some are more visible than others. It is human nature to assume that others think and feel the same way that we do; that my friend or colleague enters into a conversation, an activity, a situation with a similar perspective (kaleidoscope).  But intellectually we know the reality is certainly different.   Personalities, motivations, and experience vary significantly among the population.  And the combinations are exponential.

When we communicate and interact with others, the different kaleidoscopes with many individual gems, are bound to sometimes collide and introduce conflict, misunderstandings and emotions.

Now consider perception of a specific situation, incident, issue… added to this perspective.  Perception is obviously colored and informed by perspective, and I propose that perception relates to ones understanding of a specific situation or issue presented at a given time.

I found some examples of different perceptions of a situation in a recent movie, Dunkirk.  As soldiers reach the mainland of Britain by boat after the battle, a blind man provides them with a blanket and pillow, as most are boarding a train to other parts.  As he gives them this gift, he says something like “good job” or “thank you”.  One of the soldiers says, “but we lost” and the blind man says, “you survived”.  Two different perceptions of a situation clearly informed by perspective.  On the train, one soldier says to another, “that man didn’t even look us in the eye when he handed us these blankets”.  He obviously had yet to recognize that the man was blind. The viewer is shown that the soldier on the receiving end of that comment, clearly understood the man to be blind.  Very different perceptions.

This is about awareness.  To try to provide solutions to how to understand each other’s perspectives and perceptions better and use this information for better results, would take a much longer blog.  We can start by listening more, communicating more, and trusting more.

Narrative unravels the complexities of your people through improved communication and engagement while attracting the right type of talent to grow your business.  Contact us to discuss how to learn about the varying perspectives of your team members.

Over the last several years, I find myself frequently telling people that I have an “attitude of abundance”, not a fear of scarcity.  And I recommend it to be successful and to some extent, to be happy.

In my experience, when we share what we have, what we know, and who we are, we are rewarded.  This means sharing our network, our knowledge, our experiences, and our lessons learned.  This takes confidence, optimism and being vulnerable.  When we share and collaborate, everyone wins.  More ideas are born, more problems are solved, and more issues are uncovered.

This attitude of abundance is in contrast to constantly worrying about our competitors. In my opinion, there is enough work out there for all of us.  Generally, I mean coaches and consultants, but I believe it applies to almost any business.  Business development activities should include meeting with competitors because many times, you will uncover possible partnership opportunities.

I felt some confirmation when I read an article by Martha Beck in a recent Oprah magazine where she describes a South African word Ubuntu.  She said it means “I am because we are” and Martha Beck says, “Ubuntu reminds us that humans didn’t become a dominant species by competing.  We did it by cooperating.”  She goes on to describe that “in small villages surrounded by threatening wild animals, each person is precious, and sharing brings abundance.  If one villager learns a skill – say, a new way of growing food – she benefits more from teaching others than from using it to compete.  When her neighbors thrive…the village is stronger as a whole.”

Do you have an attitude of abundance? I’d love to hear your perspective!

I have to admit that sometimes I get a little frustrated when I can’t seem to get through to executives with limited budgets about how important this “People Business” really is. Sometimes, I go back and remind myself why I got into it in the first place and I want to share that with you. Some of you may have heard the story.

About half way into my 15-year career at Accenture, I was paired up with a client manager to manage a team on a large project at Bank of America. I was in my late 20’s and he was in his 50’s or 60’s. We did not get along. After 2 teambuilding sessions with our larger team, we became best buddies. And I was hooked. The personality assessment that we used and the facilitation were very powerful. In those sessions, my colleague and I began to understand each other. This led to a more successful relationship and vastly improved productivity.

I decided then that my second career would be in the “People Business” and that is where my focus has been for the last 12 years.

Moving people from disengaged to engaged, unmotivated to motivated, misunderstood to understood, capitalizing on each person’s strengths all for the common goals of the organization, reaps huge rewards for the organization and everyone involved. Focusing on the organization’s greatest asset can only benefit the organization exponentially.

All of us get caught in the trap of buying into simple. One of the things that I talk about at some point in most of my training/team building/leadership development sessions is that people are complex. We are made up of our many personality traits, values, experiences, physical attributes, and talents. These form different perspectives, perceptions, and various narratives for each of us. It is a wonder that we can communicate and achieve anything together at all. Despite how obvious those statements are, we generally fall into the habit of assuming everyone is like us and have to constantly remember that our reference points are so different.

On the other hand, we also have to remind ourselves how similar we are. Sit down with someone for 5 minutes and you can probably come up with 15 things you have in common. Being human provides us with many, many similarities.

You get the picture – WE ARE COMPLEX – and you cannot boil anything related to being human down to a simple formula.

For the last 10 years, I have been learning/teaching personality differences. One of the major applications of this knowledge is that to effectively communicate with others, you should treat them the way that they are most comfortable. For example, I’m an extravert, so when I am talking to an introvert, I try to lower my energy level to make them more comfortable.

Well, recently I learned about Sinek’s concept of Why? – What is your company’s purpose? The basic idea is that people buy emotionally based on their belief in your purpose, not based on the features of your product. I became really excited about that because I knew immediately how I wanted to communicate Narrative’s purpose in this way. I thought that rather than talk about our services of Leadership Development, Team Building, Selection and Coaching, it would be more compelling to tell prospective clients:

“At Narrative, we want to have the majority of your people talk about their jobs as dream jobs and we want their Tuesdays to be as compelling to them as their Fridays are. If this were to happen, imagine how successful your company will be.”

Now, how is that for tapping into emotion?! Right?!

Well, after the excitement wore off, I remembered my knowledge and experience and put it up against this new, somewhat simple idea. His concept of appealing to the emotions only works for a segment of the population that relates to that. I am attracted to that because I am wired that way. But I don’t think it would work if I use that type of marketing messaging with my Accounting and Legal clients. They relate better to more practical, logical, straight-forward marketing messages. It may work with my clients in Marketing and Human Resources. They may like more inspirational, creative messaging.

Simple sells, but it isn’t reality. Reality is messier and harder. Sure, we have to simplify concepts to teach them, but when it comes to applying them, we have to incorporate an idea into a lifetime of learning, test it, and make sure it works with the other concepts we know to be true.

Over the last 10 years, you could hear me say many times, “I found my dream job and in many ways, we help people find theirs”. I also said, “I don’t see Sundays or Mondays any differently than Wednesdays and Fridays”. Unfortunately, I think that is somewhat rare. There are too many people out there with jobs that don’t excite them, interest them, use their strengths, etc.

There are tools to help determine possible jobs/careers that best fit a person’s personality, values, intelligence, skills, and talents. Not only one or two tools should be relied on, but getting information from many and putting that data together can definitely increase the chance of getting a good match between the person and the job. Now, I certainly understand that not everybody has the luxury of going out and researching this with a career counselor or even if they determine some better career choices, there are sometimes obstacles to changing careers at certain times in our lives. However, the knowledge gained can even help us approach the careers/jobs that we are in with different attitudes and behaviors that can improve our quality of life.

Looking at this from an organization’s point of view, these tools can be used to assess a job that needs to be filled and to assess candidates against the job. When a match is found this way, the chance of success is much higher and hiring costs are greatly reduced. Other benefits are incurred as well, since the employees are more engaged and more productive when there is a good job fit.

In my past corporate life, whenever I let an employee go for performance reasons, I didn’t look at it with dread, as my colleagues did. I truly felt that I was allowing the person to move on to find their next path that fit them better and maybe even find a career they were passionate about, where they would enjoy Mondays as much as Fridays.

I can’t fathom how many different definitions and descriptions of a leader there are out there. A leader is not someone whose title necessarily connotes leadership. A leader takes on responsibilities of a leader, whether they are handed to them or not. For example, a soccer team member can lead the team when they are out on the pitch, even if they are not named captain or if they are not the best player on the field. A successful leader:

1) Is guided by possibilities, not fear. It is easy to determine whether someone is guided by possibilities or guided by fear. If they are guided by possibilities, then they trust in the potential of their partners, employees, teammates and clients. They don’t worry that everyone is trying to steal their ideas; they share them. They aren’t naïve and careless, but they don’t allow skepticism and fear to thwart progress and potential growth.

2) Takes risks and when you take risks you have to be willing to fail. When you don’t fail, then the upside can be extraordinary.

3) Has passion for what they do. A leader is someone who people want to and are willing to follow.

4) Doesn’t pretend to know it all or think he/she can do it on their own. They understand they need competent, engaged people on their team to be successful. And these team members need to be diverse in personality, values, talents and experiences. Even then, a leader needs to reach out to experts for advice and recommendations.

5) Is generally a people person. How much of a people person depends on the industry they are in and the size of their business, but they must have good interpersonal skills and genuinely care about their employees, teammates, clients and partners and be willing to spend time with them.

6) Is willing to take a stand when necessary. Some leaders will be more opinionated and assertive than others, but in general a leader will not be extremely reserved. They will be willing to make the hard decisions, even when all the facts are not in.

7) Is hard-working and driven. This goes without saying. The hard work may look different from one leader to the next. In one leader, the work could be more focused on relationship building, coaching and mentoring and another it could be more focused on content expertise.

8) Is a coach and a mentor. A leader supports his/her leadership team and all employees in learning and progressing in their career, communicates clearly with them, advocates for them, and generally values them.

India wasn’t on my list of places that I have always wanted to go, but when I had the chance to go last month (twice – Chennai and Bangalore) to provide Leadership training for a large global company, I was happy for the opportunity.

I am embarrassed to say I was slightly worried about venturing out on my own on the streets, especially when I talked to some fellow Americans and Brits who had been there before. Wow, some people really do come from a place of fear. But, once I got there and met the people, I realized, I need not worry. Now, I am sure there is crime and obviously, I wouldn’t walk down dark alleys by myself, but in general, I felt very safe.

Some of my most interesting observances:
• A family of 5 on one motorcycle!
• Four or 5 vehicles across 2 lanes of traffic at a time going very fast!
• Shacks made of cardboard and tin next to very modern buildings
• Trash everywhere
• Beautiful colors
• Smiling faces
• Fresh food sold on the side of the road – sugar cane being juiced, watermelons, lemons for lemon water, corn, coconuts for coconut water

The differences in the socio-economic classes was observable. The dress, the transportation used, and the way people behaved was distinct among classes. Charles, the man who drove me around in Bangalore, had a family of 5 and earned the equivalent of $250 a month. He was wonderful to talk to. He told me all about Bangalore, the people, the city, India, politics, his family. He seemed happy. He also seemed interested in my life too. He even worked for 24 hours straight so that he could take me to the airport. The skeptical will say he was vying for a big tip and I say that is partly true, but we were also engaging in an enriching connection that didn’t dwell on status or class. I don’t want to downplay the struggles that Charles probably has based on his limited resources and how easy my life is with a wealth of resources.

I’m getting ready to teach a diversity program next month and one of the main messages is that we are more similar than we are different. We start with our similarities as the foundation and then emphasize how differences enrich our interactions. Charles and I are from different countries and different socio-economic classes, but we connected through sharing our rich, personal lives in a car driving through the streets of Bangalore.

I’ve always believed in getting expert advise and I’ve tauted that as one of the keys to my success. And I still believe it. But in a recent situation, I threw out all the advice that I received, came up with what was right for me, didn’t check with anyone regarding the decision and acted with full confidence. And this is something that I’m going to live with for a long time – the name of my new business! I feel confident, energized and liberated. I didn’t use a “corporate branding strategy” as someone put it or a focus group as someone suggested or even send the name to potential clients, friends, colleagues to see if it brought up good or bad connotations. I considered doing all of those things. What I found from advice on this particular exercise was that it was all about everyone’s opinion and what they would do if it were their business.

I’ve had a business coach for over 9 years and I am a coach myself. One of the principles of coaching is that you don’t give advice, but help your client determine their own solution. If they come up with the solution, they will own it and it will be much more successful than if it is the coach’s solution. This principle applies to naming my company. I determined the name that I wanted for my business, kept it close and I am now revealing the name as I launch the business.

I own it and am excited to move forward into this new adventure, bringing past knowledge and experiences, new learnings and insights, expert advice and authentic solutions!