360 leadership perspective
Leadership Management

360 Leadership Perspective: What Do You See?

Are you missing opportunities right behind you?

Recently, I sat down and opened a book to read with two young children. They selected a picture book where they needed to find hidden objects on different themes. In some of the pictures, I was the first to find the hidden object, and I quietly waited for them to peer at the page and point it out. But at other times, they found it first. I was momentarily surprised because as an adult, I thought that, based on my expertise and perspective, I would “see” it first. It made me realize we had different views on the picture based on our frame of reference and the things that we were used to visualizing. Our preconceptions were also different—they pointed out creative objects and ideas in the picture that I never would have noticed.

It occurred to me that as leaders, we have similar experiences in every aspect of our work lives.

What do leaders miss?

Leadership teams often identify issues that need to be addressed in their organizations. However, they tend to identify them based on their perspective of a particular issue that needs to be solved. That perspective may not always reflect all the views of others impacted by the situation. In doing so, they miss the fullness of the issues and the possibilities for improving them.

It shows up in various ways…

  • Team member surveys designed to understand the level of engagement in an organization. The answers are only as good as the questions, and employees’ trust that their words are being heard.
  • New product features identified to meet customer needs. People may not really want the new feature. They may not be willing to pay for it. They may not fully understand how it works or the value it will provide.
  • Customer surveys. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve responded to questions after a phone encounter with a service provider. Yes, the person was courteous and friendly. And maybe they resolved my issue, but the survey never asked whether the company’s process made sense to me.
  • The difference between the culture described by leaders, and the actual culture that employees deal with daily. Leaders may believe they have proper processes in place, empowering employees to speak up about problems and make changes. In reality, there’s a measure of fear that such actions will derail their careers.

In each of these situations, making a decision based on limited information or a narrow leadership perspective creates significant risks for the organization. It can result in loss of financial resources, employee engagement, customer value and quality, leading to serious problems.

Just recently, The New York Times reported that the Wireless Emergency Alerts system designed for federal, state, and local officials to communicate messages about emergency events didn’t perform as expected. Some of the people impacted by the Lahaina wildfires, Hurricane Hilary in California and Hurricane Idalia in Florida didn’t receive their notifications and suffered greater loss as a result. This highlighted a stark contrast between how the organization viewed the process as effective and the way the community it was intended to assist actually experienced it.

What should leaders see?

So how can you ensure that you’re incorporating a 360 leadership perspective in your programs, processes and problems?

First: encourage input from all parties (leaders, managers, team members, customers, suppliers, franchisees/dealers, etc.) to ensure alignment on what you’re trying to accomplish. Seemingly simple gaps in communication between these groups can develop into a chasm of missed opportunities.

Next, talk with each of these stakeholder groups to understand what they’re doing, seeing and experiencing. You’ll obviously have pre-identified questions, but ensure that they’re open-ended, and leave room to be surprised by their feedback. You’ll find that they can provide a greater breadth of information than you anticipated.

Multiple perspectives always add value to understanding, framing and assessing issues. Only when you engage people at all levels who interact with the situation can you identify the right approach and move through the process to resolve it.

Examples of a well-rounded leadership perspective

An article in a recent edition of Harvard Business Review highlighted two good examples of leaders considering every angle.

Alberto Carvalho, former head of Gilette’s emerging business market, wanted to understand why their products weren’t selling well in India when they had tested well with Indians living in the U.S. and England. He decided they needed to better understand local Indian shaving habits, but rather than send an entry-level employee to gather this information, he decided to go himself and take several of his direct reports. Their first-hand observation of potential customers led to them changing the razor design on the flight home, and market share in India went from zero to 18 percent in two years. This approach shifted the culture to a greater focus on customer experience.

Manoel Amorim, former CEO of Telesp Telecom in Brazil, purchased one of their new internet products for his home but couldn’t make it work. Instead of calling his manager responsible for the product, he called the product hotline. The customer service representative spent two hours with him but still couldn’t resolve the problem. So, he invited the representative and his colleagues to present to his executive group the following week to talk about their challenges. Then Amorim tasked the executive group to come up with solutions, which they presented to the customer service representatives the following week for support and implementation. A process is always improved when employees can give voice to their reality.

As a leader, it’s important to recognize what you do and don’t see. Then gather more information to ensure you incorporate the perspective of your stakeholders in every aspect of your business.

For more leadership tips, read Is Your Team Connecting, Whispering or Shouting?

About the author

Priscilla Archangel

Priscilla Archangel, Ph.D. is a seasoned leadership consultant, executive coach, author, speaker, and teacher. She has a passion for developing leaders, and motivating individuals and organizations to align their values, behaviors and goals with their purpose. Visit priscillaarchangel.com.

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