Foundations in Leadership Development: Part Four

Intersecting Points of View (IPoV)

Leaders who excel at their craft transform different points of view into a common purpose. To do this, they listen; are open to influence; and are certain of and flexible in their position. They also know that only through understanding and speaking to the underlying purpose of another will people be interested in moving forward together.

Intersecting points of view is a model that describes the anatomy of a point of view, how to navigate the different parts, and how to intersect in ways that bring people together toward an optimal outcome.

Mindset

Intersecting Points of View builds on the first three foundations in leadership development. Being open to influence is a mindset. To do this you come to conversation with curiosity.

Listening with curiosity to another person while understanding you see the world differently is called a growth mindset. Instead of thinking narrowly – my way is the right way – you think broadly – how are my way and your way the same or different. Through the growth mindset of curiosity, you learn how the other sees the world through paraphrasing what they say to make sure you understand their words as they mean them – not interpreting them through your lens.

Once you become clear about what they propose or state, you walk through your mush separator in your mind or out loud to decipher how you feel and what might be behind your feelings or response to their perspective. This process builds the valuable skill of self-awareness.

Once you understand your point of view through applying these skills to your thoughts, you become able to influence the outcome. It sounds like a laborious process. And in the beginning it is. It must be. You are changing the way you see the world and expanding your mental models. This is no simple task, but to become a leader who influences others in the pursuit of a common task and a person people want to follow, it is necessary.

Intersection

Conversation happens where points of view intersect. The intersection occurs when you have similar or different points of view about a fact, concern, or purpose. To have a measured impact and create movement toward your desired outcomes requires a knowledge of and nuanced approach to these intersections.

A purpose is an essential commitment you cannot abandon or choose to uphold. Concerns are factors that you believe may interfere with achieving your purpose. When you uncover a concern and feel the need to speak or be heard, you reference or draw from relevant facts that support the validity of your concern.

It is easy to be curious and see beyond your beliefs, your stand, and your values when stress levels and stakes are low and when other’s right and wrong align with yours. As complexity and demands on time and resources increase, when diversity includes opposing perspectives, approaches, or language, you need a reliable conversational structure to guide you. A conversational structure that generates productive dialogue and elevates the conversation from arguing over facts, to understanding concerns, and ultimately aligning on purpose.

Facts and Confirmation Bias

Facts can be skewed to your favor. There is a study from Stanford University[1] where a group of volunteers were given an article to read. One group was pro-capital punishment. The other was anti-capital punishment. Each was asked to read the article, process the facts, and come back and relay if the article supported their case or not.

When both groups returned, they reported the article supported their point of view with a long list of facts. They both read the same article but chose the facts that supported their beliefs.

To support your point of view, it is common to select or recall information that validates your beliefs while disproportionately giving less attention to information that contradicts your point of view. This is called confirmation bias.

This phenomenon is found everywhere from mayonnaise choices to political ideologies. If you believe someone or something to be in opposition to your beliefs (point of view) you harden your stance, circle the wagons, search for facts to prove your point, and auger in for the good fight. This may be conscious or unconscious, but either way it happens.

The defend response is the historical remnant of a necessary evolutionary capability to know where you stand and secure your survival. The point of naming and standing for what you believe is right and wrong is a distinguishable developmental moment in a leader’s maturity. To remain in this place and continue to defend your point stalls your continued evolution – you narrow your choices with a fixed mindset and underutilize your breadth of skills and capabilities as a human being.

Concerns and Stress

Concerns are things that you perceive my interfere with achieving your purpose. When you have concerns, you draw from the relevant facts to validate your concerns.

In this example, Val and Gina, department heads at a water district share concerns and rebuttals from their specific point of view without finding a way to intersect. The lack of intersection leads them to discount or distrust the perspective of the other person.

Val: (unskillfully sharing her concern about the facts) What is you plan to address the water situation?

Gina: (thinking – does she not trust me?) Well, we are fine for now.

Val: (doubting her competency) Have you talked to people in other departs?

Gina: (feeling micro-managed) We will loop them in as necessary.

Val: (thinking she is defending) Is there a back-up plan?

Gina: (feeling judged) Hey, everything is under control.

Val: (sad, frustrated, and uncertain at how to move forward) Ok, thanks.

Gina: (annoyed, defensive, and ready to be done) No problem. Any other questions I can answer?

Val’s thought bubble: She is unprepared. I can’t trust her.

Gina’s thought bubble: What a micro manager!

Of course, we are all professional and would not let this discontent leak out, but it does leak out. This disruption gets relayed through looks and sounds – rolling of eyes and sighs, in and out crowds – who we feel comfortable with and invite to lunch, and who we feel has our back during a time of need.

Both of these people are good at their jobs and have the best interests of their organization in mind. Yet, each approaches the data differently. Val has concerns. Gina does not. Each pulls facts from their pool of relevant data yet no one shares the facts and the conversation ends even before it gets started, leaving both feeling unsupported and siloed, and silently judging the other for HOW they approach the conversation.

A gift of our humanness is we pick up on signals other emit when they feel troubled. This is dangerously unconscious. If this conflict exists, others in our companies, organizations, groups, or families will know. They create opinions, gather facts, and form siloes for protection.

This lack of trust, the need to defend, and the resulting confusion, discomfort, frustration, and disappointment happens frequently everywhere we work. It erodes trust and makes a trusting culture nearly impossible.

Until you broaden your perspective, the other person likely perceives that you are unaware of or disregard their point of view. They unconsciously consider you a threat – someone not to be trusted. Thus, they will actively undermine, avoid, resist, or attack any PERCEIVED threat.

To move past limits in skill and perspective, you seek to see the person as someone who has a purpose they cannot abandon or chose to uphold. To do this, you apply a structure until you become well-practiced to navigate these conversations with ease. And yes, eventually they become easy – with practice of the skills and the integration of the structure into conversations we evolve.

Purpose versus Outcome

When most people speak of purpose, they talk of outcomes. Outcomes can be shared but purpose is universal.

Purpose drives pursuits, what you stand for, and your behaviors. Purpose often lives unconsciously inside your mind and body. When others name your purpose, it is like air to the lungs. You are seen.

Humans are complex, but purpose is universal. All people want life to have purpose and meaning. This deepens over time if you are doing your work to learn and grow. Which helps you gain more choice when under stress.

Knowing your underlying purpose is an essential step to influence others. Uncovering and naming another person’s purpose is conversational art.

Here are six choices that encapsulate humans universal underlying purposes. Which one most resonates for you?

  1. Be in choice, do it yourself, or be spontaneous.
  2. Be understood for the intention beneath your behaviors.
  3. Make a difference in a project or effort and contribute.
  4. Be connected to and see how your work is supporting a collective purpose.
  5. Want processes, conversations, events to be efficient, feasible and workable.
  6. Be recognized or acknowledged for your effort.

With these in mind, let’s return to the previous conversation using the model to guide us.

Intersecting Point of View (IPoV)

When we apply IPoV, to this conversation, it is easiest to intersect with the most relevant common fact.

Val believes there is not enough water. Gina believes there is plenty of water. The water amount is the same – 5,000 gallons – but both parties’ level of concern is different. As the conversation takes place, more facts are revealed making each person’s point of view seem more valid and building a shared connection to purpose.

Val: I feel nervous. I do not think 5,000 gallons of water is enough. From your response, “We are fine for now.” it seems you and I have a different perspective.

By noting the facts – 5,000 gallons of water Val shares what relevant data she is referencing. She makes an internal fact public. She is concerned. Are they?

Gina: The data I have tells me that 5,000 gallons will be enough until our resupply. It is a long weekend in between now and then. Yet, there are two days where a majority of our population might not be drawing as much water as it will rain. And another water district has offered to loan us 3,000 gallons of water should we need it.

When Val shares her facts, Gina adds to them. We all desire to be helpful, this model helps us learn how to unlock the mystery and create productive and inclusive conversations.

Gina was not hiding these facts – holiday, projected rain, and an additional 300 gallons – she just didn’t know they were relevant or thought Val knew them already. Most people assume that others see the world as they see it. But no two people see or experience the world in the same way. Not even identical twins.

These additional facts prompt Val to share her concern.

Val: I am still concerned that we won’t have enough water. From my end, knowing that we have back up water helps me feel a bit more settled that the pipes will be lubricated at all times. As you may know, if we run out of water, we risk the joints of some pipe connections becoming dry. We are working on replacing all these joints but are not done yet. The absence of moisture may create leaks or pipe failures in these five areas.

Val shares more facts. These may or may not satisfy the concerns. But they allow the other person to see more of your point of view.

At this point in a conversation, it often still feels there is some obvious point that you can’t name but is important. This is when we crave being seen and heard, but often have a hard time figuring out how to meet that craving. The art is to notice and name purpose.

Gina: I see. I now more fully understand the stress you hold for the downstream effects that you manage when we get close to running out of water. I see your concern. I also want to manage the work efficiently and not stress our workforce with emergency repairs if pipes dry out.

Here Gina states the underlying desire that aligns with Val’s most important – number 5: efficiency. And she also acknowledges and recognizes Val’s efforts – number 6 on the list of Universal Underlying Desires. This moves each of them past the arguable facts whether 5,000 gallons is or is not enough, through each of their concerns, and finally to a place where they both find common ground – their purposes.

Val: Now that I know you understand the bigger picture, I feel more settled with your original assessment.

Gina: Thanks. Still, let’s put some more restrictions on water usage and order a bit more next time. Sound good? Keep me posted if you uncover any data that creates more concern for you.

More universal underlying desire, numbers 2: understood for intentions, and 4: seeing the bigger picture. This conversation leads to new procedures and solidified teamwork to manage the water issue.

This last piece connecting with another person on the level of purpose is the art of IPoV.

To create an inclusive culture, where people feel valued, safe, and work as a high-functioning team, it is essential to seek to understand each other, spend time in productive and structured conversations, and remember to discuss facts, share concerns, and reveal our most pressing purpose. 

For more information about IPoV, invite perspective. Reach out to us for a call. And stay tuned for our upcoming podcast, “Yes, you are a leader” – where you discover that your ordinary life is really quite extraordinary.


[1] https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.372.1743&rep=rep1&type=pdf

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