I was running around the other morning trying to get my two boys (ages 2 and 5) ready for school and Carter, my 2-year old, was flipping out about nothing being able to “see” the video he and Will, my 5-year old, were watching on the iPad. I moved the iPad closer and went back to unwrapping cereal bars. He kept flipping out. I got frustrated and snapped at him. He got more upset. This was going nowhere.
So I stopped and thought about it. I walked over to his chair and ducked down so my head was right next to his and I looked at the iPad. There it was — a terrible glare from the sun beam streaming in from our back window — right across the iPad screen. When I looked at it I couldn’t see the video at all. *Head slap* I moved his chair five inches to the left and he calmed down.
Isn’t so much of leadership and teamwork just like this?
It took me all of 20 seconds to calm down, reorient myself to his perspective, see and acknowledge that he was right, and fix the problem. From his perspective he physically could not see the screen, and that’s exactly what he told me. When I didn’t try to understand from his perspective he got upset. When I took the time to not just listen, but to experience the world from his perspective, it all made sense and we were back in sync.
True effectiveness requires the leader to stand in the shoes of the team.
This morning when we walked out to get in the car for school I saw a huge spider web covered with water droplets that I wanted to show the boys. I pointed it out and Will couldn’t see it. I lowered my head to his level and looked and sure enough the spider web was lost to my view against the light of the sky. I lifted him up two steps and he saw it against the darker background of the trees in our neighbor’s yard. We all enjoyed the view and went on our way, having an instructive discussion about how spiders might be scary, but they eat the “bad bugs.” I would have missed all of that if not for taking his perspective and learning from it.