Open the Door to New Perspectives

The President of ATD Birmingham (and my friend) recently shared insights on The Leadership Pipeline with a room full of talent development professionals. I’m sure he said many, many great things, but the one thing I remember (and have talked about nonstop since then) was the idea that the first rung on the ladder of leadership is the hardest to climb. 

The first time you shift from being an individual contributor to being a manager is like putting on a pair of glasses that no longer work. We know an upward move in our careers means upgraded responsibilities, but we don’t usually also upgrade our gear (glasses). So, even though we’re doing a new job, we still see our old job. 

This got me thinking about other ways this metaphor applies to life. For example, if we are supposed to be brainstorming, or coming up with creative solutions, but we’re wearing the wrong glasses, we won’t even be able to see the new possibilities.

We talked earlier this year about armored leadership versus daring leadership, and I think the same concepts apply here. Being a knower and being right is a totally different mindset (pair of glasses) from being a learner and getting it right.

I think what I’m trying to say is it’s not so straightforward to shift from being a doer to being a learner, or getting stuff done to developing new ideas for how to do it. With our open the door theme this year, what I’m most excited about is opening the door to curiosity. Opening the door to new ways of working. Opening the door to different perspectives. Trying on new glasses. 

Just last week, I talked with a group of HR professionals who are studying for the SHRM-CP exam. Our topic was learning and development in the context of an HR functional area. We spent a good amount of time defining a learning organization. Here’s a good overview via LinkedIn Newsletters written by Roopak Jain:

According to Peter Senge, the five characteristics of a learning organization are:

  • Systems thinking: The ability to see the system as a whole
  • Personal mastery: A commitment to continuous learning
  • Mental models: The ability to challenge common assumptions held by individuals and organizations
  • Shared vision: A common vision that is committed to and shared by everyone in the organization
  • Team learning: The drive to continue the process of enabling the capabilities to deliver results as a team

Source: The Learning Organization – An Agile Perspective

Individuals, organizations, and communities can all benefit from getting new glasses. Or inviting someone to the table with a different lens. If we only see things the way we’ve always seen things, how will we know what’s possible? 

This ties in with all DEI initiatives, because we do have a history of lack of representation at the highest levels of decision-making and influence. If we study who has been represented in Fortune 500 CEOs, U.S. presidents, down to state governors,  mayors, school board superintendents, small business owners, etc., we see how communities without diverse representation are less likely to thrive. At the core of many civic and business issues is a lack of perspective. It’s a great, big, complicated, beautiful, terrible, amazing world, and we all experience it differently.

At Horizon Point, we try every day to keep the door open to perspectives or experiences that are different from our own. We challenge our clients to do the same. We ask questions. We remain curious about the world around us and the lives and needs of our neighbors. We volunteer and support community organizations that are trying to improve where we live, where we work, and where we play.

If your door is already open to curiosity and new perspectives, how are you bringing others with you?

If you are realizing that you need to take the step and open the door, there’s no better time like the present. If you’re not sure where to get started, take a look at What We Do, and maybe we can help.


Jillian Miles Massey