Leaders tend to be so engrossed in the day-to-day aspects of their position, or overly involved in the specific situation at hand that they lack the ability to take a step back and consider a different approach. As a leader and advisor, I’ve seen this conundrum throughout my career, and it’s prevalent in every organization. I’ve also seen the dramatic effect that adopting an “outsider’s perspective” can bring to a company.
An outsider’s objective point-of-view is instrumental on many levels. For example, a writer can read her own work ten times and find no errors, while a proofreader can spot a spelling error on the first read. It’s not that the writer was unable to spot the typos, but rather that she was so hyper-focused on the work that she was not able to see those errors. A fresh perspective shines light on problems that would otherwise have gone unseen or identifies opportunities that are hiding in plain sight.
Now, where does a leader find the right people with the most effective “fresh eyes” perspective? Here are three proven techniques that help a business utilize a pair of fresh eyes… and they are ready for you to use right away!
1. Advisors. When I visit a business for the first time, I ask a ton of questions. Not technical or industry-related, but rather straightforward operational questions. I want to learn how a company works from the outside in at the most fundamental levels. “Why is it done that way?” “Why has your team been doing it that way?” Simple, but insightful questions will provoke discussions that clearly lay out what is working and what needs work.
2. Other Team Members and Departments.Some leaders tend to have a narrow circle of employees they go to when trying to tackle a problem. While comfortable, that misses the fact that every single employee has a unique insight into how the business is managed and has their own views of what needs to be fixed. It’s always helpful to speak with a diverse group of employees to gain new insights and solutions – the leader’s job is to work through all of these suggestions and determine the best path forward based on this variety of input.
It’s really important to note that these employees are not members of the “c-suite” or even in a managerial position. I have had amazing experiences learning from salespeople, clerks, and even window washers. These employees want to share their ideas and thoughts, they just need an outlet for them to be voiced. By having an honest, human conversation with your fellow employees, you will reap the benefits of their invaluable insights.
3. Customer Feedback. Some of the best ideas for you can be sourced from your customers. In fact, customers might have the most valuable feedback available because they are actually paying for and consuming the services or products your business offers. They are voting with their wallet, and each time that have a purchase decision to make, they are making conscious decisions. Leaders take heed! Make sure that you and your leadership team meet with customers and learn from them about what’s working, what’s not working, and what else they would like you to do. And make sure you are paying attention to what people are saying online (and offline) about your company. This feedback, even when negative, can you you tremendous insight.
In the constantly evolving and fast changing pace of business, leaders need to call upon and benefit from others’ insights, opinions, expertise, and critiques to ensure that they are relevant, desirable and the best place to go for both their employees and customers.I’ve seen these three strategies work throughout my years as both a CEO and as an advisor.
Even though leaders are empowered to make decisions, innovative and successful leaders realize and leverage the value of outside input and a fresh perspective to improve performance.
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