The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
Can you stay true to who you are without sacrificing your success? Absolutely YES.
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When Perspective
Makes All The Difference

It's not always easy to find perspective at work.
Sometimes it makes all the difference.

Perspective is a tricky concept. Everyone has their own definition for it. Ironically, that's because everyone has their own perspective... about perspective. Tricky as it can be, perspective really just comes down to the ability to see how things relate to each other, and the capacity to understand what's more important vs. less important relatively speaking.

Perspective is a skill most of us exercise every day at work. Without even realizing it, we continuously evaluate what plays out in front of us with a critical eye. We apply our own unique perspective to form opinions. We make judgments. We choose how to respond to circumstances or opportunities.

Perspective is in play every second of every day. Until it isn't.

Sometimes we lose our perspective. When we're faced with challenges or disappointments, our ability to view things objectively can fade quickly. Anytime our ego is triggered by threat or insult in the workplace, it's like we're wearing blinders that limit our line of sight. Emotion of any kind can be like kryptonite to perspective. Our ability to distinguish one thing relative to another becomes blurred, constricted, or worse yet... completely paralyzed.

Most of the time when we lose perspective, we rebound without any real or lingering impact to our success or satisfaction. But that isn't always the case. In one particular work situation, perspective makes all the difference. Any guesses for the one thing that requires perspective more than anything else at work?  
What's the one situation where perspective makes all the difference?
How do I find and use perspective to protect myself from the danger zone?

When Perspective Matters

We all know people who seem to lack perspective. It's pretty easy to spot. The sky is falling. (No, it's not.) I'll never recover from this. (Yes, you will.) I ruined my big chance. (No, you didn't.) I'll never live this down. (Yes, you will.) People with poor perspective rarely garner respect in an organization. Unfortunately, we all have moments where our perspective is out of balance.

It's easy to see in others, but you may not realize when you yourself lose perspective. Hopefully you have co-workers who support you and challenge you to find your way back. Sometimes, though, it's a long and difficult journey back to "okay" once you've lost your perspective. Damage is done. Relationships are fractured. Reputations suffer and career opportunities slip away over time. Unfortunately, this can happen without you even being aware of it, because remember - you've lost your perspective.

One situation where the stakes are high and recovery can be tough if you lose perspective?

        When you don't see eye to eye with a colleague (boss, peer, or co-worker).

In situations where you don't see eye to eye with a colleague, particularly over time, your perspective can be like a runaway train without you even realizing it. Before long, you're far from where you should be in terms of maintaining positive and productive relationships. You may think it doesn't matter. It does. Even people you don't like may have more influence in the organization than you realize. Besides, if you're on a fast-track to anywhere, people are watching you and your interactions with others. It's really important to find and keep your perspective when it comes to relationships at work.

Three Keys To Gain Perspective

It's easy for me to say that you should find and keep perspective when it comes to your relationships at work. It's much harder to do. Here are three approaches that have worked for me over the years. 

(Confession: Even though I know these techniques work 100% of the time, I don't always remember to use them myself. Perspective isn't easy, but it's so worth the effort. Practice helps. A lot.)

1.  Consider the IMPACT before you engage.

When we don't see eye to eye with someone at work, our tendency is to react strongly to anything and everything that doesn't match our point of view. Every negative interaction feels personal and intentionally antagonistic. Sometimes it's intended to be exactly that. Either way, it doesn't serve us well to engage without perspective. 
Try This
One of the best work habits you can adopt is to stop, breathe, and consider whether the words, actions, or behaviors of another person in any given moment really matter. By considering the impact before you engage, you gain perspective. The better you get at engaging when it matters and disengaging when it doesn't... the better your relationship becomes over time. Here's why. 
You can't push against the tide every single time you disagree or it becomes a pattern you can't break. It also becomes a pattern for the other person. When you're directly impacted in a way that really matters: engage.  When you're not directly impacted in a material way and the other person is just demonstrating ignorance, annoying you, or pushing your buttons: disengage. 
Fight when it matters and save your resistance when it doesn't. If you practice this skill, your relationships will improve, you'll be more productive, and you'll ultimately be more successful. Guaranteed. If you think this sounds too hard, keep reading.

2.  LEAN IN to points of disagreement, not away.

Disagreements tend to bring out the worst in all of us, whether we want to admit it or not. Even small disagreements with someone we don't normally see eye to eye with can escalate quickly. We start rolling our eyes, shaking our heads, fidgeting in our seats, and demonstrating other habits of frustration. It's all completely natural, but not particularly productive. A more effective approach is to get in the other person's head. Lean in to points of disagreement. It works to your advantage every single time.
Try This:
When you're working with someone and you don't see eye to eye, drop your own position long enough to understand the other person's perspective. Get in their head. Ask yourself these questions. What is their point or position really? Do they feel strongly about their position? What's motivating their words, actions, or behaviors? What are they trying to achieve? What scares them about me, or my perspective? What makes them uncomfortable? Does their perspective have any merit? Why won't they see things from my perspective? Have I shared enough to help them understand?  (Remember, they may not be as smart, experienced or connected to reality as you are.) Are my words, actions, or behaviors bringing out the worst in them? Are they just mirroring me?
Here's the beauty of this approach. You can easily pay attention to what someone tells you or shows you about their perspective. But you learn a lot more from what they don't say or show. Do yourself a favor and become skilled at reading between the lines. Lean in to points of disagreement. If you make an effort to really understand the other person, you'll likely find common or neutral ground. Even if they don't appreciate you trying to understand their perspective ("Get out of my head!"), you'll improve your relationship over time if you practice this with the right intention.
The upside here? You'll win more battles than you lose. The more you understand about another person's perspective, the better you can position yourself to influence it. My warning is this: if your intent is to manipulate the win, you'll lose. It backfires. Intention rules success here. Speaking of winning and losing, keep reading.

3.  Go for the TIE.

From the time we're young, we're taught that winning is good and losing is bad. There are winners and there are losers. If you don't win, you lose. Well, not so fast. Since we're talking perspective, here's a new perspective on winning in the workplace. People who win by making someone else lose... are often successful. And also often disliked and unable to earn respect. People who win by finding a way for everyone else to win a little too... are always successful. And rare. And revered. Which would you prefer to be?
Try This:
I love to win. I love to win even more when other people share in the win. Sometimes the best thing we can do in a contentious relationship is to stop the legacy of win/lose battles and go for the tie. This is sometimes the only win for both people over the long-term. The only loss is to our egos, which shouldn't be let out to play too often at work anyway. This is where it all comes together. Here's how it works.
If you're following the three keys to gain perspective as outlined here, you're only engaging with someone you don't see eye to eye with when it matters. You've paid attention to all they've said and not said about the issue at hand. If you know what's important to you, and you know what's important to the other person, it's just a matter of finding a way for both of you to get some of what you want. Philosophical battles have no place at the table when you're trying to do productive work. Keep your perspective and understand the other person's too.   
Once you know both sides of the story, you're in an excellent position to broker to get some of what you want, and allow the other person some of what they want. As with all of the techniques shared here, the more you practice this, the better you get at it. When you become someone who can negotiate productive outcomes for yourself and others, you become incredibly valuable to your organization. Perspective leads to productivity. Productivity leads to success and satisfaction.

Bottom Line

You won't always see eye to eye with people at work. Most of the time, you have to work with them anyway. You can choose to let them get in your way, drive you crazy, and impact your success. Things will typically escalate to the point where you lose complete perspective on right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, and all forms of intention. (Hint: They're wrong. You're right.) Or, alternatively, you can keep your perspective and get things done.

If you don't see eye to eye with someone, chances are you think they're uninformed, ignorant, stubborn, stuck, and/or annoying. You can't really change that person at the core. You can try to force them to behave differently, but why not change your approach instead? Finding and keeping your perspective is about realizing first and foremost that you have a ton of work to do and not everyone will line up to make it easier. Deal with it. Or better yet, deal with it well.

When it comes to relationships where you don't see eye to eye, engage only when things matter. Lean in to your disagreements so you can learn all there is to know about the other person's perspective. Once you know what you want, and you know what they want, find common ground without concern for a classical win. Even a win-win can be too hard to find. Go for the tie, where you both get a bit of what you want. (Tip: Be absolutely clear about what matters most to you before you start, or you won't get it.)

Perspective seems to be a lost art these days, and at a time when it couldn't be more important. For most of us, work is constant, intense, and complicated. Losing perspective doesn't make it easier and it doesn't help perceptions of our performance. Standing on moral ground because we're "right" is like standing in quicksand.

Practice the art of perspective. It won't let you down. More likely, it will lift you up.

More soon,

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