How a Different Perspective Can Make You a Better Leader

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I spent several hours yesterday helping a colleague (whom I’ll call Poppy, because it’s fun) rewrite her website. She was concerned—rightly so—that her site was too wordy, didn’t really capture who she was, and just plain didn’t pop. (This is especially important when you’re named Poppy. Which she is not. But, for the purposes of this article, she is. So there.) So we spent several hours rewriting, revamping, and revising—after which we had a delightful Italian dinner.

Now, I’m not a web designer. I’m not a graphic artist. I’m not even a copywriter. What I am—and what I was for her—is a fresh set of eyes.

A fresh set of eyes.

That’s a resource that virtually all leaders have access to, but very few utilize on a regular basis. And that’s a shame.

It’s a shame because a fresh set of eyes can do several things for you:

  • It can serve as an advance “red flag,” a “canary in the coal mine,” when you’re starting to veer off-track, but are still too close to the status quo to see it.
  • It can serve as a validation when you’re on the right track.
  • It can help you discover new, innovative ways to improve old processes and to move your business forward to new breakthroughs.
  • It can cause you to re-evaluate your current policies, product lines, systems, and other aspects of your business. (NOTE: “Re-evaluate” doesn’t necessarily mean “change.” This re-evaluation could result in anything from re-committing to, escalating, tweaking, decreasing, or abandoning current procedures.)

These are all good outcomes. But they are outcomes that many leaders miss out on because they are simply too close to the work. When you’re in the middle of it, day after day, it’s all too easy to miss the warnings and opportunities that a fresh set of eyes might catch.

My advice? Get a fresh set of eyes to look at your work at least once a year. This could be anything from an extended lunch with a non-competitor colleague to a full-fledged independent audit, depending on the size of your business. But all leaders need occasional input from someone who can see the things that they (the leaders) can’t.

And here’s the cool part: you’re still in charge! Poppy and I made some great changes to her website—together. I didn’t dictate anything. Here’s what it looked like. I’d make a suggestion, and Poppy would do one of the following:

  1. Fall in love with the suggestion and incorporate it immediately (this happened rarely, but it did happen).
  2. Hate (or at least dislike) the suggestion and not incorporate it.
  3. Be intrigued by the suggestion and say something like, “That gives me another idea. What if we did this instead?”

The third option was by far the most common. Poppy didn’t take my suggestion verbatim, but it sparked an idea that she wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. The process was a true collaboration—and Poppy always had the final say. It is, after all, her website and her business.

But as we finished our Italian dinner, she said that she was very excited about the changes we made together, and that she has a greater sense of clarity about who she is and how she wants her business positioned.

Not a bad payoff. And all it took was a fresh set of eyes.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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