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Why it’s time to shift your perspective

By Michelle Gibbings CMgr FIML

The year 2020 is one many will be happy to forget, however, before saying ‘good riddance’ to the year that was it is useful to pause, take stock and reflect.

Start by asking: What have you learned this year that you wish to take into 2021, and what do you want to leave behind?

To answer that question effectively, you will need to examine the perspective you are applying.

Challenge your perspective

Perspective is something we rely on every day; often with little thought as to its impact on our choices and corresponding outcomes.  The opinion we hold on ourselves, others and events ultimately shape our thoughts, reactions and actions.

Holding a perspective doesn’t mean it is correct, nor is it necessarily wrong.  It’s merely a point of view, which means that being ready to challenge your perspective and when necessary, change it, is difficult.

The most challenging perspectives to change are those you hold about yourself, and that’s impossible to do if you don’t understand yourself.

Self-awareness, which Daniel Goleman defines as “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions”, is central to this.  When you are self-aware, you pay attention to how you are feeling at any given moment, and you understand what drives your thought processes and actions.  You accept that knowing oneself is a life-long process, and consequently, you need to be open to receiving feedback.

In a year filled with change and uncertainty, consider what you have learned about your levels of self-awareness and resilience.  What are your default behavioural responses and patterns, and what are your go-to coping strategies?  Identify what’s useful and where you may need to evolve your approach to achieve better outcomes in 2021.

Try different shoes

Next, reflect on your relationships with colleagues and team members.  Were they as effective as you wanted them to be, and what would you like to change?

Successfully answering this question requires perspective-taking.  Researcher Mark Davis defines perspective-taking as the ability to adopt the psychological point of view of others in everyday life.  It’s the equivalent of the adage of ‘Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes’.

Perspective-taking is beneficial because when you apply this mode of thinking, you are using different cognitive skills to examine and process information and interactions.  You are challenging yourself to abandon assumptions, so you are open to understanding what is driving a person’s reactions and behaviours. Consequently, rather than focusing on assuming and judging, you are listening and learning.

As Atticus Finch said to his young daughter, Scout in the literary classic, To Kill a Mockingbird: “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you`ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Stretch your learning

The world is complex and changing, and there is much we don’t understand and are yet to know about how 2021 will unfold. Achieving sustained success requires curiosity about what is and what could be.  This is you – as a leader – finding your learning edge so you can see the world from different vantage points.

To get you on that learning edge and ready for 2021, here are five tips:

  1. Seek new channels – don’t always go to the same news sources. Instead, try alternate sources of information to ensure you are broadly and wisely informed
  2. Listen deeply – listen to people you disagree with, read their commentary and ask questions.  Seek to understand them and what drives their thought processes.  You don’t have to accept their ideas, but the more you know their world view the better chance you’ll have of finding common ground and making progress.
  3. Suspend judgement – be interested in the other person’s perspective; even if your immediate reaction is to not agree with them.
  4. Be always curious – challenge your assumptions and expectations.  Consider why you think the way you do, and what’s shaped and influenced your belief structures and automatic decision processes. Most importantly, check that approach is still valid.
  5. Broaden your network – have friends and connections that think differently to you. Be willing to engage in spirited conversations, which require you to think about your perspective, and the facts and data you are using to hold onto that position.

Here’s to a fabulous 2021, in whichever way it unfolds.


Michelle Gibbings is a fellow of IML ANZ and a Chartered Manager. She is also the author of the books Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work and Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career. Her latest book is Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one or are one.

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