Call me dense but it took me 20 years in business to learn my most valuable leadership lesson. Everybody has a different view of the world! I made this discovery at a leadership course about 10 years ago when about 30 of us were lined up in a room in order of personality type according to our Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) score. With my 1 point of feeling graciously awarded by Myers Briggs, I was right at the extreme end of the line that snaked around the room. We broke into groups of 3, and were issued with a felt pen and a sheet of paper. We were asked to:
Describe the sea
In my world the sea was cold, wet, deep and blue. The people around me agreed 100% as we scribbled on our sheet of paper. We could not comprehend the strange looks we received from those at the other end of the line when we read our description to the group. As we progressed around the room, I was gobsmacked by the progression from our simple black and white description to the wishy washy sometimes blue, sometimes green, sometimes greeny blue version at the other end of the room. Talk about shades of grey! What they saw and what we saw could not be more different. It was like we lived on different planets. Age, sex, race and cultural background clearly had no bearing on our separate views of the same world when we looked at our row of people.
What I learnt – Everybody has a different view of the world
I already knew that you can’t change our personality type. Mine agreed with what was measured in a different forum 10 years earlier. From this revealing exercise, I learnt:
- Everybody views the world differently even when it is the same world we live in.
- Perception is reality. If a person views the world differently to you, that is their reality.
How I used it
On my return to the office, I tried hard to accommodate these differing views of the world by:
- Maximising my one point of feeling awarded by the MBTI score by genuinely trying to empathise with other people around me so I could understand their world.
- Used the diversity in my team to make better decisions. This let me get a better view of the real world, not just my distorted perception of it.
- Worked with my 2IC more effectively. As we had a trusting relationship and totally different personality types, we would agree who would deliver a message to make the best use of our individual strengths. My 2IC had more feeling and hence more compassion which made it easier for him to deliver some messages. Plus, this was a great way to guide him in developing his own leadership skills.
- Listened more intently to other points of view and was more conscious of differing perceptions. Being a more effective change manager, I learnt to deal with people’s perceptions, not my perceived reality.
- Became a better leader in the workplace!
Tell me what you think
I’d love to hear your view. Leave a comment on:
- What is your greatest leadership discovery?
- How do you accommodate differing views of the world?
- What do you think of MBTI and have you used it to become a better leader?