‘Daddy, my nose is stuck,’ was the somber diagnosis from three-year-old Keegan who was playing host to a heavy cold.
I had never before heard it put that way but could certainly identify with the sentiment. After all, who amongst us has not experienced a ‘stuck nose’? And a wretched condition it is too.
Somehow finding a fresh way to state an old problem can make all the difference. In a sense it is the prelude to a ‘paradigm shift’ – a concept that has grown in usage and popularity but one that I suspect is more spoken about than understood, practiced or experienced. How we like to cling to well-worn perspectives and attitudes that fit us like comfy old clothes! And even when they are revealed to be outdated, irrelevant and long past the sell-by date, we still hold on tightly, refusing to let go. Perhaps we fear that to surrender such ‘garments’ would be to lose something of ourselves, something of who we are.
Then someone comes along and tells us that our nose is stuck and, POW, we get it! We find the will and strength to move on, to change, and to see things differently.
Leaders often are the ones who are able to frame things differently. And by doing so they are the ones who help others ‘get it’.
So just how do you go about this? Well, a good place to start is to find someone who will challenge your way of seeing things, your way of doing things – the deviant, the crazy, the fringe – and take them to lunch. Talk to them, ask them questions and listen. Allow their ‘difference’ to rub off on you.
The worldviews through which each of us interprets the world around us are as powerful as they are subtle. Often we are not even conscious of the lens through which we look and judge, assuming that our ‘sight’ is normal and wondering why others can’t just be normal like us. An example of this is seeing the ‘red’ of a Coke can at a depth below 150 feet in the ocean. At that depth red is no longer part of the visible light spectrum. Yet people do see it. And the reason? Such is the power of scripting in their minds that they see the colour associated with the familiar branding. A major task for those in leadership is to begin to develop ways in which to recognise the lens through which we see things.
Once whilst I was in Hawaii, I had occasion to interview Professor Nick Barker, a good friend, mentor and the Director of the Asia Pacific Leadership program at the East West Centre. In answer to the question: ‘What would be the advice you would give yourself were you able to go back to the beginning of your career?’ (a real ‘back to the future’ type question if ever there was one!), Nick said that it would be to remind himself always to work at holding up mirrors that would enable honest reflection. It was a wise answer from someone who is helping to shape leaders throughout the Asia Pacific area.
Reflecting on who we are and what we encounter is the very soil from which meaning, purpose, perspective and motivation grow. It is also a great way to help us understand just how it is we ‘see’ the world and thereby engage others who offer us a different perspective.
Leaders everywhere need people who are willing yell, “my nose is stuck” for therein sits the ability to see things differently! Leaders everywhere also need mirrors from which they can better understand themselves and how it is they see the world.