Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Virtues of New Perspectives

Guest post by Great Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

I recently spent time in remote parts of Africa. One of the items on my husband's bucket list was to trek with the silverback gorillas in Uganda.  For those of us who have traveled to South Africa, the rest of Africa is still in its infancy. You have to be willing to constantly adjust your expectations because you can be guaranteed that things will “just happen”.

During the journey the lessons I learned about gaining new perspectives would benefit any leader or aspiring leader.

First, Accept what you can't change
Africa is different, very different. And there are things about Africa that will frustrate most of us who have become accustom to predictable outcomes in the most basic of situations.

For instance, in Africa, there are few paved roads and driving on them is the equivalent of riding an antique roller coaster in the midst of a sand storm. The lack of well-maintained roads increased the time required to travel between each destination. The poor roads were not something that could be changed during our travels. So we all learned to accept the situation and focus on the beautiful landscape during our road travel.

There are many external factors to your business that can’t be changed such as the economy, weather, and government regulations to name a few. Do you accept those factors and look for the positive external factors, the opportunities that you and your organization can leverage to your advantage? Or do you spin your wheels focused on what can’t be changed?

Look for opportunities amongst the trees

Getting away is important to leaders. Without a physical departure from the workplace, you are unable to clearly see your blindside. You are looking at your organization with the same set of eyes and filters day in and day out.

Changing your environment and getting away to think about the important and not the urgent can allow you to see things in a different light. All of the very successful leaders today understand the value of taking time away from the work environment. They are then able to see the proverbial “forest through the trees”. The advantage of a new environment supports why so many planning sessions take place as “retreats” away from the workplace.

Slow down and observe

In Africa, there were many days where we had no access to Internet. It took me some time to adjust to being “cut off” from the world but once I made the adjustment I was able to focus.  No longer were the constant emails and texts that distracted me from my thoughts.

The slowness allowed me to have the time to become clear on some issues that I had been trying to work out yet never quite got clarity because of the constant interruptions in the office.

Next steps

This type of adjustment requires incremental change; the small steps you can accomplish will produce greater change over time.  So the first step to take is your daily activities. Schedule 30 minutes during the day for just yourself. Turn off electronics, and get out of your normal environment. This may merely be walking outside your office building. This time will get you into the routine of being quiet, slowing down, and exploring. After the 30 minutes take time to write down any ideas that came to you. These may be ideas that you need to take action on in the near term or something that you’d like to do in the future.

Once you have mastered this process, which will probably take at least a month, then schedule a day each month when you will spend the day away from the office as well as home. Choose somewhere that is quiet and power down your communication devices. This is where the real work will take place. It will give you time to:

·       Review all those ideas and opportunities that you have not yet taken action on and prioritize

·       Self-reflect on the past month, what was your major accomplishment and your biggest disappointment, did you spend time on what could not be changed?

·       Decide on the ideas you need to pursue and what first steps need to be taken

·       Determine what you personally need to do to improve as a leader, is there a relationship you need to strengthen, a behavior you need to adjust, or are you overusing one of your strengths?

The critical part to this process is making it a sustainable one, so that you never have to reschedule or skip your monthly day away.  Are you ready to take on this challenge? Take the first step and change your environment right now.  Go outside and take a 30-minute stroll.

Beth Armknecht Miller’s is CEO of Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. Beth is a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer. She is a graduate of Babson College and Harvard Business School’s OPM program. She is certified in Myers Briggs, Hogan, and Business DNA. And she is a Certified Managerial Consultant. Beth’s insight and expertise has made her a sought-after speaker, and she has been featured in numerous industry blogs and publications. To learn more about Beth visit BethArmknechtMiller.comor


David Liddell said...

This is an interesting article. I like how you put a personal experience in this.

Tania Moura said...

Nice to hear that! Thanks for sharing and inspiring us.

Heléna B said...

The best and most helpful piece of advise is often the most easy one, thanks Beth!
"Out of Office for the next half an hour, strolling.
Kind regards,