Note: This post originally appeared as a LinkedIn article on April 7, 2020

Golden Gate Bridge

With all due respect to Pixar and Buzz Lightyear, right now we don’t need to go to infinity and beyond, but we do need to get to the other side of this COVID-19 crisis. Since there is no playbook for such an unprecedented business (and life) disruption, we have to come up with one. Fortunately, there are tried and true business principles and practices that we can use to help us gain and keep the proper perspective.

In this blog, I will be sharing those proven principles and practices (originally on LinkedIn). They are universal in their nature and apply to all organizations desiring to improve their performance. They are effective during good times and bad. The articles are designed to help you learn, grow, and most importantly, put them into practice.

We can sit and stare at our TVs or phones all day wrenching over the virus’ grim numbers and our dire circumstances. Or we can take action to improve our – and our organization’s – current situation while increasing our chances of a quicker and more successful return to “normal.” I favor action, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself as you’ll see when we discuss Perspective, below.

While these articles are about business, there seems to be a larger narrative about who we are and what’s important, to what’s currently happening. I am a person of faith. I am not going to push that on you here or anywhere else. But know that I am praying for all of us as we do our level best to come out the other side stronger and wiser.

This series is going to begin with the vital importance of having and keeping the right Perspective. It will then lead us through Purpose, Passion, Path, Processes, Progress, and Performance. Yes, they all begin with P. And we will not leave out the most important one, People.

Perspective

Finally, each one will end with Questions to ask yourself and Steps to take. Remember, there is a bias toward Mission-focused action here. Let’s get started.

Perspective is not something you do; it is something you have. Your Perspective determines how you view the world around you. How you view the world, in turn, shapes how you approach and react to situations and events in that world. It may seem like I’m over-simplifying a little bit here, but it really is that straightforward.

Are you a glass half-full, half-empty, or the-glass-is-too-big kind of person? Do you have a local Perspective or global? Finite or infinite? The way you choose to see the world will strongly influence the way you operate in it.

Sidebar: If you have lost income or your job because of this pandemic, I feel your pain. If your health, or the health of a loved one has been impacted by this vile virus, you have my deepest sympathies. Remain strong. Your Perspective will be impacted, but in the right situations, may be helpful to others enduring a similar lot. So be on the lookout for this opportunity if you can.

Brian Cuban tells a wonderful story about selling newspapers with his brother Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks Owner, Shark Tank) when they were growing up in Pittsburgh. Brian had a paper route, but at one point the newspaper staff went on strike and left him with zero income. Brian pouted at what he saw as a closed door. But older brother Mark didn’t see a closed door, he saw light through the window of business opportunity. He drove 130 miles to Cleveland, bought up newspapers and brought them back to Pittsburgh where he sold them on a street corner for 5x what he had in them.

Whether you believe this season could result in your organization’s last hour or finest hour has a foundation in your Perspective. I have seen a few leaders unexpectedly shrink in fear and anxiety in the face of this current crisis. I’ve also seen many proactively and creatively step up their game. The resulting actions here are vastly different due at least in part to those leaders’ vastly different Perspectives. Time will tell which one will lead to better results. But we’re not going out on much of a prognosticative limb if we place our bets on the proactive leader.

Perspectives aren’t right or wrong, just better or worse

To be fair, Perspectives aren’t right or wrong, per se. Your Perspective is your Perspective. But history and research have shown that certain Perspectives lead to better outcomes, both in times of trial and prosperity, than others.

Is this a time for sitting back, either out of fear or laziness? Or is it a time to double down and lead your organization through a killer crisis? The answer depends on your Perspective.

Pessimistic Perspectives tend to lead to undesirable paths and results. Realistic and optimistic Perspectives tend to lead to more promising paths and results. It’s important to know your Perspective if you want to achieve optimal results.

Perspectives influence your attitude

Let’s say you are getting behind the wheel and your going-in mindset, your Perspective on the state of driving, is that all other drivers on the road are reckless idiots and don’t deserve to be on the same road as you. As you’re motoring along, someone cuts you off. Your reaction would probably involve three less fingers than if your going-in mindset was that we’re all just trying to get to our destination safely and sometimes cars get in each other’s blind spots. Your attitude toward the other driver was based on your Perspective that no one else can drive as well as you, regardless of the facts. By the time you get to your destination your attitude will likely be even worse because in your mind it was reinforced by your experience.

So, Perspectives also color our attitudes.

Perspectives can and should change

Tim Ferris recently interviewed Richard Turner on his award-winning podcast. Turner was named the Close-up Magician of the Year in 2015 from the Academy of Magical Arts (AMA). This is the magicians’ equivalent of an Oscar. Does that make you want to listen to the podcast? Maybe, after all, it is Tim Ferris. But maybe not if you’re not into magic. What if I told you Richard is also a sixth-degree black belt in Karate? Do you want to listen a little more? What if I told you Richard is blind? Now does that change your Perspective on listening to that podcast with a blind, butt-kicking, world-best, close-up magician?

If I would have come to your organizations’ Christmas party (and I would have if only I was invited!) and around the punch bowl asked your views on the likelihood and impact of a global pandemic on your organization, what would you have said? Now, just a little over three months later, how has your Perspective changed?

So, Perspectives are based on what we know and have experienced and can change based on a new experience or a different set of information.

By now hopefully you see that the importance of Perspective cannot be overstated. But what does all this mean for us as business leaders and managers?

Key takeaways

First: Your Perspective is always your choice. You can choose to give up in hard times and sit at home and stew, or you can choose to be relentless and find a way through them or around them.

Second: You carry your Perspective with you. Perspectives shape the way we operate. Basically, everything we do is influenced by our Perspective.

Third: Perspectives carry a weighty influence on your attitude. And since attitudes are contagious, monitor your Perspective.

Fourth: Perspectives can and should change. Choose to keep yours current. Fresh Perspectives, like a new pair of glasses, will allow you to see clearly and stay on course or chart a better new course. Change yours as seldom as you can but as often as you need to.

Fifth: Every organization will be altered in some ways, maybe many ways, because of this 2020 virus crisis. Yet we will come through it. History tells us this. What will your new “normal” look like? Your Perspective should be that when this fever breaks, you want your organization to be stronger not weaker. You want the prevailing Perspective to change from ‘We can’t’ to ‘We can’t be stopped!’

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What was your Perspective on the virus when it first broke out? How has your response to it changed based on your changed Perspective?
  2. What was your Perspective on your organization’s performance prior to the virus outbreak? What is it now?
  3. What opportunities do you see in the midst of this crisis? What windows might be opening for you and your organization? Can you pivot to a new or modified product or service that provides value to someone?
  4. Are you going to wait this season out in hopes that your organization will survive? Or are you going to proactively make your organization stronger through it? What can you do to take advantage of this time to rethink, revise, retrain, retool, refresh, reestablish, refurbish, rehearse, etc.? I may not even know you or your organization, but I bet I could come up with ten or more worthwhile projects to undertake within the first ten minutes of a conversation with you.
  5. Bonus: How do you view your family and loved ones now, deep into this crisis? How has your Perspective changed? Do you value time with them more? Create ways to connect?

Steps to take:

  1. Now is the time to do those things you always wished you had time for! Pre-virus your Perspective may have been, ‘I’ll get to that when I have time.’ Well, guess what? Now is that time. Change your Perspective to, ‘There’s no time like the present,’ and get to work.
  2. Improve one thing at a time. Realistically assess your organization’s performance prior to the virus. The Baldrige Criteria are a world-class assessment tool. Were you achieving what you thought you could or should? Probably not. Pick one area and change your Perspective to one of ‘We are going to fix this,’ or ‘We are going to make this better,’ or ‘We are going to fill this gap or build this bridge,’ or ‘We’re going to add this or subtract that.’ Don’t stop until you make your post-virus organization better than your pre-virus organization.
  3. Ensure that you sustain any improvements you make. Improvement is the first, but smaller and frankly easier part. Sustainment is the second and more important and difficult part. Sustaining your improvements enables you to realize a return on the time, energy, and effort used to implement them.

In the next article we’ll link the importance of having and keeping the proper Perspective to the foundation of every enterprise… its Purpose.