Do You Need to Broaden Your Perspective to See the Bigger Picture?

Written by on June 2, 2015

Imagine a 1,000-piece puzzle that you are tasked with putting together. Simple, really. A little time, a little determination, and you’ll have it. Now consider this caveat: you can only flip over two or three of the pieces at a time. Suddenly, it becomes that much more complex, virtually impossible.

As individuals advance in their careers, the number of pieces in their puzzles increases exponentially. If they continue to see just a few pieces at a time, they will encounter more challenges and difficulties than they need to. Broadening their perspective, expanding their scope of vision, is essential.

Shifting Your Thinking

An individual I coached recently discovered a need to expand her perspective, as she was getting ready to assume a position with greater authority and responsibility. Previously, her role had required her to be very detail-oriented. She was, after all, a forensic auditor, and she had to be attuned to the smallest facts and figures. Part of my job was to draw her out and have her explore how she might look at her future role from a strategic or holistic perspective.

She understood that as she moved up in the organization, she would have to transition from a black-and-white perspective to one that included seemingly infinite shades of gray. She had to flip over many more pieces of the puzzle, as it were, so she could see the bigger picture.

At the same time, she also had to learn to manage people who were black-and-white, detail-driven individuals – as she had been. She not only had to see the situation holistically, she had to see it from the points of view of those who only had those two or three pieces to look at.

Perspective Through Experience

Through the course of this coaching engagement, this same individual acquired through a secondment process a manager who employed a very different style of management – one that was wholly incompatible with her own. As he reported directly to her, she tried to coach him to adopt a higher-level managerial approach. He didn’t buy it! He was a great technician, and perhaps he needed to broaden his perspective given his new role, but he wasn’t interested in changing his leadership style, and in fact vocally opposed her style.

This manager had a secondment stop-date that my client needed to honour. Ultimately, she counselled him not to reapply for the position. Fortunately, for her, through the formal recruitment process, she now has an outstanding manager reporting to her. But why depend on fortune or luck? Through coaching, we have tackled this essential question: What did you learn from your experience with the other manager?

It’s a simple question, though many people don’t take the time to contemplate experiences – or apply that learning to the future. Pondering it, though, gave this client the opportunity to consider how she would handle the situation differently. And again, this comes back to changing her perspective. Instead of facing problems as brand-new unknown entities, she can begin to see them as approachable, as quandaries to which she may have the solution when she looks inside herself for it.

In this way, changing one’s perspective is an ongoing process: each experience can inform the next, and it can serve to bolster confidence in one’s ability to handle challenges and seize opportunities.

When individuals are willing to broaden their perspective, it can facilitate solutions for the current situation, and serve as a guide for dealing with the challenges what life and work can throw at them tomorrow.