As a leader, have you ever found yourself in a position where it seems like there is no possible solution? There’s a possibility that you may literally have your blinders on to potential solutions or next steps. While recently faced with such a situation, I remember a physics demonstration that I saw a number of years ago showing how polarizing filters work. The youtube video below shows a similar demonstration; a huge thank you to Authentic Science for the great demo.
It’s amazing that when you look through two polarizing filters with the same orientation, it looks just like you are looking through sunglasses. However, rotating one of the filters by 90 degrees completely blacks out any incoming light making a barrier that is impossible to see through. Rotate back 90 degrees and you can clearly see through the filters again.
How does this apply to leadership? We are constantly faced with conflicts, issues, and sometimes simple questions that appear to be without solution. We often feel the burden of needing to provide all the solutions to everyone as soon as an issue presents itself. Yes there are some emergent issues that demand immediate attention, but for the most part we owe it to ourselves to take a step back and seek new perspectives to help us reach effective solutions. Below are a few things that I find help broaden my perspective:
Time – Time is one of the best tools we can use. If an issue doesn’t need immediate attention, give it time. The power of the 24 hour rule is amazing. In this time, some problems solve themselves. Other times, just “sleeping on it” can help to see problems in a new light or new perspective.
Reflect – In the heat of the moment, we don’t always thoroughly think through issues. Stopping and reflecting allows us to think of similar situations that we have been in before. Past experience is our best friend, but we need to give ourselves the opportunity to access it.
Get Clarification – Find out more information about the issue. A more complete investigation will give you a clearer picture of the issue and associated variables.
Ask for Help – Help can sometimes be the hardest word in the English language to use. But as leaders, it is absolutely essential that we have people that we can go to. Whether he’s next door, down the hall, in another school, or on the other side of the world. We need that person that we can bounce ideas off of, and hold up that all important mirror that we need to look at ourselves.
When in doubt, take a step back and tilt your head 90 degrees, and remind yourself to try to expand your current perspective. It just might bring the clarity you need to solve your problem, or at least move forward towards a solution.