Perspective matters. When you are confronted with an issue or a new situation, how do you look at it? Do you dive into the details? Do you focus on risks or what might, or did, go wrong? Or do you take a step back and first consider the big picture of what you are trying to achieve?
My son is entering High School next year and we have a lot of choices to make in a short amount of time. If you have been through this before, you know that they ask students to plan out all 4 years with an eye on where they want to go to college, all in a two-week timeframe. When I first heard that, I immediately considered all the things that could go wrong if we didn’t do it right. Panic set in! But then I remembered that my perspective matters in terms of how I approach situations and how it feels to my son.
I turned to a model by Dr. David Rock to help me find a productive perspective for this situation. The Choose Your Focus model helps us recognize what perspective we are applying and then allows us to choose another way to think. The levels include:
- Vision: the what or the why related to your desired outcome. Why are you doing this? What do you want to achieve?
- Planning: the how you will get there.
- Detail: the details around taking action. Focus on the specifics of the situation and the small actions.
- Problem: focusing on what has gone wrong or might go wrong.
- Drama: sinking into the emotions of the situation.
Our teams rely on us to set the course and tone for how we deal with them. If we start with the detail, problem or drama, we can cause spin or panic. When we jump directly into what might go wrong or has gone wrong, it creates anxiety and confusion for the team. Similarly, we can overwhelm people when we go deep into the details without the anchor of the why and what we are trying to achieve.
There can be value in spending time in any of the levels depending on the situation. Even some venting for a short time can be cathartic if time boxed. There are times to focus on the details once you know what and why are you doing it. And we cannot ignore risks. Introducing that perspective at the right time and for the right length of time builds a better outcome.
The key is to be purposeful about what perspective you are in and to ask yourself, is that the most helpful perspective right now? To help you remember, post the model on the wall in team meetings. Engage your team to help the group stay in the desired perspective. It can also be a helpful planning tool for a difficult conversation that may have emotional charge.
When I was able to stop, step back and evaluate my perspective about my son’s High School experience, I chose a perspective to seek clarity on the main things I want my son to get from high school (a path to a college of his choice, knowledge, healthy socialization and EQ development, strong leadership skills, and maybe some college level classes for tuition breaks). That focus eased my panic and moved me to a more productive place. More importantly, it helped me be a stronger and calmer leader for my son as we navigate these challenges.
As a coach, I strive to apply a primary perspective of vision and planning. This elicits movement and avoids a slide into drama and spin. If you are spinning and could use help gaining momentum, call me or send me an email. I’d love to talk further.