Several years ago, while vacationing at the beach, I was persuaded by my two teenaged daughters to go parasailing. We had watched others doing this for several days and I had been perfectly content to observe this activity from the comfort of my beach chair while sipping tropical beverages. However, being the tenacious girls they are, they persisted and I relented. I paid what I considered to be a fortune and signed safety waivers and off we sailed, high above all those “saner” individuals sipping their tropical beverages!
What amazed me is how different everything looked from our lofty vantage point. The ride was gentle and quiet, the view magnificent and the perspective broad. I could see the island we were on with great clarity. The trees, roads and buildings appeared in a new light; more orderly than I had imagined. This experience opened my eyes to a new perspective.
In my work with organizations I have found that there are benefits to gaining a new perspective of how it is functioning. Sometimes we need to take the parasail ride above our comfort zones and get a different look at what is happening. We often overlook opportunities for constructive change because we fail to see the need, or we fall into “that’s the way we always do it.” Daily “fire fighting” precludes us from taking the elevated view of our activities.
HOW DO WE GET A NEW PERSPECTIVE?
There are several ways of getting a “parasail” view of our organization. Some of the most useful methods are to get information from individuals external to the organization (such as consultants, professional group peers and customers), those new to the organization and those who are external, but integral (such as advisory boards). If we fail to solicit and consider their impressions, we will miss out on some very useful insights. They may not have all the answers, but their views may spark novel approaches not previously considered. They may point out some pretty obvious opportunities that those in the organization have missed due to the comfort of their vantage points “on the beach”.
WHAT CAN “PARASAILERS” ADD TO THE ORGANIZATION?
When we ask them the right questions and really listen to what they have to say, innovation and clarity can result. External interventions can also promote accountability. When there ha been a public commitment to identify problems and pursue change, it is difficult to face that individual and justify doing “nothing” differently.
WHERE DO I START?
- IDENTIFY who you can consider to be a “parasailer” for your organization or team
Some points to consider are:
- New employees (often an excellent, yet overlooked source of information)
- Consultants, coaches, temporary employees and interns
- Members of professional groups such as TEC groups, networking groups, customers, etc.
- ASK them for their candid opinions regarding performance, structure, plans, etc.
- LISTEN to their answers
- EVALUATE the potential usefulness of their ideas. (Do not be too quick to dismiss them; partial or hybrid forms of their thoughts can spark novel approaches not previously considered.
- THANK them for their thoughts to enhance continued dialogue.
WHAT IS KEEPING YOU ON THE BEACH?
By getting a lofty view of your organization or team you have much to gain, including clarity and innovation.