I was walking through my house just last week and stopped to look out of one of the windows into my back yard. It is rare that I just stop and observe like this, but when I did so it brought many thoughts to mind.
As I looked into the yard I could see many things, but my ability was obstructed, or blurred, but a few things. The first obstacle to seeing the entire yard was the size of the window; the height and width are obvious barriers to see all that we might want to see. Another obstacle was the screen while another was the slat pattern, made from wood, that holds the respective panes in the window. The final obstructions were the dirt on the outside of the window and the blinds we have on all of our windows.
When I think of these many things it makes me wonder just what obstacles we each have that skew the view we have into our world, especially our view of others in the workplace. I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast the window into my back yard with the window each of us may have when we look into the world around us. There are comparable challenges that we each have and some are more obvious than others. Many of the issues that blur our vision may be self imposed and we may not even be totally aware that they exist. Stay with me as we explore just a few in the course of this article.
When we each look out into the world around us, the view that we take in is restricted by the mental models we have of the world. These models are formed and developed as we learn, experience and grow and they have a profound impact on what we see. Just as the window into my back yard has a height and width limitation, we each have similar restrictions based on what we have been exposed to or learned in our lifetimes. When I look around my community here in Franklin, TN I see a wide variety of housing types,
ranging from less than 1000 square feet to over 10000 square feet.
My normal viewpoint might make me think that those in smaller homes are terribly disadvantaged, and in some respects they are. But when I take that viewpoint and open it with the way that many live in a third world environment such as Haiti and many parts of undeveloped nations like Guatemala and others I see that most of our worst situations are better than their best.
Let’s look at a less physical situation to bring this into clearer view. If I am someone who grew up in a household where the typical method of punishment was physical in nature, many times involving methods such as slapping or beating others, it may make me believe that this is the standard method that all will use to discipline. A tangent to this exists in the workplace if we have had a supervisor who is demeaning or rude in his/her treatment of their subordinates. We are all influenced by what we experience and this mental model is then transferred, sometimes unintentionally into how we may react in a similar situation. It is challenging to “deprogram” people who have narrow visions of how to deal with situations based on their life experience. it can happen, but it takes longer to undo and redo than it ever does to make the first experience take root.
Just as the height and width of a window influences the view we see, the length and breadth of our personal experiences have a marked effect on what we see as proper or improper in dealing with others in our world. Leaders, in many cases, may not have the proper self awareness or may not have received sufficient feedback from others to fully understand just how their behaviors in the workplace are perceived by others. An experienced leader knows how he/she is impacting others and he/she also is open to feedback from others on a recurring basis. This provides for a health workplace and it also helps to build the Emotional Intelligence of the leader.
We each have screens and dirt, just like the window does, that further influence our vision of the world and those around us. These obstructions may manifest themselves in how we treat people who are different than we are because of national origin, sex or sexual orientation. We may also have biases built in based on the type of education someone has or even based on the part of the country or world they come from.
Take a look out of your window this week and think about what is obstructing your view. You may be seeing exactly what is there, but there may also be things that are coloring your view. How comfortable are you in looking at these obstacles and considering just how they influence your thinking and your actions? Do you need to make a change in how you interpret or perceive something that is happening around you?
Strong self awareness is of great value for those who lead others and you can never do enough to make this self awareness grow. Strong self awareness helps build strong Emotional Awareness and I will talk in more detail in future posts about other ways you can strengthen your own emotional awareness.
Take a look around you-don’t be afraid. You cannot deal with or fix what you will not recognize or admit!