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

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.

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