We use Proximity to describe the reality that people closest to the situation have more accurate information — and Perspective to describe the reality that people who perceive a situation from a distance can see how everything fits together.
But those with the advantage of proximity struggle to see the unintended consequences of their choices and often fail to account for the impact on other areas. Also, proximity alone does not prepare or equip people to make the best decisions. It also requires a level of competency and experience that may not yet exist.
Those who have perspective are vulnerable to distorted information. Like a game of telephone, the information changes as it moves away from the source. They often earned their position by being good decision-makers, but even the most strategic leaders require accurate data.
Front line employees have the advantage of proximity, but leaders know they lack their decision-making acumen This threatens the trust (see our previous post) that a leader needs to feel comfortable to delegate decision-making. On the other hand, perspective without proximity will lead to a less agile process and dismisses the inherent and necessary struggle related to learning and personal development.
Successful business people engage in what Roger Martin, author of The Opposable Mind, calls integrative thinking. This requires creatively resolving the tension in opposing models by forming entirely new and superior ones.
The Solution: Creating an Advice Culture
Psynet Group uses various systems, processes, and structures to identify gaps in decision-making abilities and helps organizations close these gaps through some of the following:
First- Deciding who Decides
- Role Mandates. This is a tool used to clarify what decisions need to be made and who should ultimately be involved in deciding. This process identifies with whom people collaborate and seek advice.
- Trust Equation: We use the Trust Equation to highlight traits of an effective decision-maker and areas that need to be developed to become more effective (e.g., competency, character, likability, and team over self). The best advisors typically have expertise in the area AND are affected by the decision.
Second- Structuring For Better and More Agile Decisions
- Pushing Decision-Making Out. This is the mindset that aligns with inspiring a collective knowledge and may require a flatter structure as it assumes everyone has an opportunity to improve their decision-making abilities and execute more autonomously. This also allows leaders to be more innovative and creative as they are no longer thinking and problem-solving for others who can do this for themselves.
Finally- Equipping Decision Makers
- Diversity of Thought. It becomes the responsibility of each thinker to seek advice from different people to build a diverse perspective and inform decisions. One example is seeking advice from a different department, or outside the team, to collect nontraditional information. Advice can be sought on any level of the hierarchy, keeping the Trust traits in mind.
- Advisors Seeking Advice. Shifting from the role of taking charge to empowering others to do so is not an easy feat. It requires becoming comfortable with others’ struggles, allowing others to fail, and practicing patience. One way to succeed, as well as model this desired behavior, is seeking input and advice from a mentor or coach.
When leadership is considered a job to be done rather than a title of authority, anyone can participate. Creating a culture of advice-seekers and advisors inspires better thinkers on every level. When an organization can optimize its most important assets — that of an advice culture, leadership will naturally build on every level. Curious how to optimize proximity and perspective in your organization? We would be happy to advise.