By Manasi Bharati, Senior Psychology Consultant
This point where the writer went from being a follower to a leader, in an everyday life situation while on a hike with their family, was their vantage point. They were earlier complaining about being on the hike and simply following the leader, whereas their perspective completely changed when all of a sudden they were left in charge of two daughters following on the hike. A change in their point of view made them reconsider their thoughts and actions and take charge of the situation. Reading this, made me reflect on the times that I have had this sudden change in my perspective – while working on different work projects, while interacting with friends and family, or even while listening to a random protestor on the street.
A vantage point refers to “a position or standpoint from which something is viewed or considered” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Imagine looking at the world with your naked eyes and then looking at it through a magnifying or a coloured glass. Or imagine looking at the seawater from the beach and then looking at the beach from inside the seawater. Different, right? This is what a change in perspective, in your vantage point can do. Every view and situation can appear different depending on where you are and the temperament you bring to that view.
So how does this change of perspective impact our lives, particularly in the workplace?
In the context of decision-making, a vantage point can refer to the perspective or point of view that a person or organisation uses to evaluate information and make choices. As employees, and as humans, we have our own opinions on different things. We don’t necessarily have to agree or disagree with others. But often we find discrepancies at work in how we think about something and how the leaders or members from other departments think about the same thing. For example, as a part of the marketing team, one may think that a certain product would help garner more consumer attention and sales due to it being an essential and easy-to-promote product. Let’s call this a consumer-centric vantage point. However, another person from the accounting team might oppose this idea as a new product would mean stretching the organisational budget. This could be their financial vantage point.
Neither of the perspectives is right or wrong. Now imagine if we got them to switch their roles for a day and consider the same option. They are now at a different vantage point. A change in perspective here would make them understand each other’s viewpoints in a way they might not have thought about earlier because they will get to experience them. This can provide a level of clarity and understanding that one perspective alone cannot achieve. However, genuinely considering what an issue looks like from others’ perspectives can be a very difficult thing to do. But it can be incredible how different things can look when one tries to understand another person’s vantage point.
Most leaders in any organisation are the only ones who have incredible flexibility to move across several levels of the organisation within their ambit and truly interact with other viewpoints before arriving at a decision. This is powerful. But not all of them can or choose to do so. Paula Leach, the author of Vantage Points, suggests five different vantage points of leaders: –
- Working alongside employees – experiencing the actual performance or delivery of tasks with the team.
- Supervising and being around employees – observing alongside those that are performing or delivering tasks.
- Overseeing employees from high above – looking holistically at those performing or delivering tasks as an overview.
- Zooming out and observing from beyond – paying attention to wider systems like other competitors, departments, market research, etc.
- Reflecting on their own selves – reflecting on their own experience and instinct.
Let’s build upon these categories and see how we can change our vantage points in our daily lives as leaders.
- Educate yourself and engage in self-reflection:
To truly change your vantage point, you need to display curiosity – curiosity about getting to know other people, about their culture, their family, and their opinions. In addition to doing so directly through conversations, you can also do this indirectly by reading books, blogs and articles or watching films and documentaries or listening to podcasts and songs about different cultures, countries, professions, etc. This vantage point will allow you to peek into mindsets and behaviours different to yours.
- Interact with a colleague from a different department or team:
Meet with people from different departments, teams, floors or locations with whom you would otherwise not interact. Make it a conscious decision and action to go up to them and say hello or drop them a message to start a conversation. This vantage point will help you to start thinking about what other people think and believe in. Such interactions can help you refine your communication approach.
- Do a role switch or shadow mentoring for a day:
Building on the interaction point, try spending a day in someone else’s role or with them. This vantage point can offer you a unique opportunity to see things in the way that they see them. This will help you think about how and why they think what they think and do what they do, which can be eye-opening.
Exploring different vantage points can help us have a wider and larger view of things and also create space for others to change their vantage points as well.
“Vantage point.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vantage%20point. Accessed 25 Jan. 2023.