Coach's VIEW

Coach's VIEW is a business column authored by executive coaches in COACH A, aimed at providing valuable insights and effective approaches for leveraging coaching to foster organizational and leadership development. The column draws on the latest coaching trends and data, as well as insights from notable global publications on coaching.

The Only Thing Necessary to Gain a Higher Perspective

The Only Thing Necessary to Gain a Higher Perspective
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"I want you to be able to see things from a higher perspective."

Many of you have probably been told this phrase by your superiors or colleagues. You may have also encouraged your subordinates or those around you to do likewise. The definition of "perspective" is "a particular way of considering something" (Cambridge Dictionary). In a sense, the way you are positioned affects the way you see, the way you "perceive" things. Therefore, as you shift your position, your perspective also shifts.

In executive coaching, we often deal with the theme of how one can look at things from a "higher" perspective, by placing oneself in the position from a business manager to a business owner. I myself often try to perceive things from a different perspective in order to enhance my own perception, for example, "If I were the president of the company," or "When I look at the industry as a whole, not just my own company."

However, although I feel that my perspective is enhanced at that moment, this high perspective does not last long, and in short, it does not generate results. What efforts do you make to see things from a "higher perspective"?

Case: Problems Keep Popping Up One After Another

Paul, a newly appointed executive officer, was motivated by the expectations from top management. Even before that assignment, he had been writing down his concerns in a "list of issues," and he was looking forward to the day when he would finally be able to demonstrate his leadership as an executive officer. For a while after becoming a board member, he felt a sense of satisfaction that the company was turning around by implementing his list of issues one after another.

"I keep working and working, but it never ends."
"Problems just keep popping up one after another."

Paul had many things to do in addition to ticking off his problem list. It seemed to him that the problems just kept popping up. He was at a loss as to how to manage that situation.

"How can I solve this huge number of problems and issues that keep increasing?

Paul shared with his supervisor, "I feel that no matter how hard I try, it will never be solved. In fact, the problem seems to be getting bigger and bigger. What should I do? What would you do?" The supervisor asks Paul, "Paul, is that something you all have to do by yourself?" "What should you, as a board member, prioritize?"

As Paul thought about this question, he felt more at ease. He was able to clarify his vision and his priorities. However, as time passed, he realized that the underlying problems have not been resolved. The number of problems did not decrease, but only the order in which they were to be tackled became clear.

As Paul continued to ponder, one day his boss suddenly said to him, "Paul, you are a field-oriented person. That's all well and good, but who should you interact with more often?"
Paul somewhat felt the fog clear with this question.

Magic Words that Change Perspective

After becoming a board member, he believed that he would be able to improve the company by thinking more independently, exerting more influence, and taking action. Ironically, however, the more he thought about how to do this, the more "problems and issues" began to cling to him. And then, pressed by a lack of time, he became acutely aware of the dilemma that he was not able to come up with any solutions over and above his own capability. In addition, he was under a lot of stress and self-loathing over the increasing number of uncompleted tasks. When his supervisor asked him who he should be more in dialogue with, he felt that the stress of the problem was halved and a bright future could be envisioned.

Robert Keegan, a professor and a psychologist at Harvard University, classifies the developmental stages of human intelligence into the following three stages;

Stage 1: Environmentally adaptive intelligence (the stage in which one seeks acceptance from one's peers)

Stage 2: Self-initiated intelligence (stage of developing autonomous self-consciousness, but stubbornly refusing to believe and change one's own way of looking at things)

Stage 3: Self-transforming intelligence (stage of having cooperative relationships for transformation)

For Paul, his supervisor's question was a catalyst for him to move up to the third stage described by Keegan. The question brought to his mind people who were better than him, people with different experiences and perspectives, and gave him a sense of having the "how to face it" solution in his hands.

We need to enhance our perspectives more than ever in order to innovate creatively in the age of VUCA. According to Professor Keegan, less than 10% of all people exhibit self-transforming intelligence, but perhaps the key to reaching that stage is to simply think "with whom" above all else.

Not How to Do It, but to Do It With Whom

I believe that enhancing one's perspective means, in other words, facing things that are likely to be unattainable by one's current self.

"What would I do if I were the CEO?"

This question in itself is not bad, but this is only a pseudo-change of one's own position. In other words, the thoughts are in one' s own frame of mind. Why don't you boldly change that habit and change the question to "Who should I do it with?", "Who should I consult with?", or "Who would help me on this?"

The "who" that comes to mind is normally someone who has something superior to you, regardless of their position. To challenge what you cannot accomplish now, you can now rely more and more on the very thought of "who" to help you.

It seems to me that the more difficult the problem is, the more your ability to attain results depends not on "how" you do it, but on with whom you do it.
Who is your "who" for that problem?

Robert Keegan, Lisa Laskow-Lahey (Author), Chiaki Ikemura (Translator), "Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good)" Eiji Press, 2013

Yohei Kato (Author), “Pressure and Mechanisms of Skill Development , JMA Management Center, 2017

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Language: Japanese

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