It was fifth grade when I was found out. Sitting at the front of the classroom demonstrated I was an engaged student, yes? But at some point, my guise was up. A trip to the eye doctor put me in bifocals at a young age. I remember being amazed at how many individual leaves were on the trees. Wow!
The amazement soon turned to clumsiness and embarrassment. Exiting the school cafeteria, I stumbled down the steps. And I stumbled up the steps to go back into the classroom. Not a positive experience for a youngster just entering the gawky stage. After three days, the glasses were banished for the remainder of my school days…yes until my senior year and a part-time job funded contact lenses.
Where optometry failed me in those early years was to prepare me for the necessary change in the way I viewed things when I transitioned activities. If you think this is only a story of a child’s journey, consider this…the bifocal view applies to our work life.
Much of what we do in our early work years is as an individual contributor. We focus on our project and our results and develop a form of near-sightedness, a focus on things close by. With success as an individual contributor, we are soon promoted and asked to oversee others and a broader range of projects. But unless we know how to adjust our view, we are looking at the bigger picture through our close-up lens. We struggle to see beyond what is immediate and we surely can’t see the individuals on the team. Remember the leaves on the tree?
A young manager may stumble early without help to adjust the view. With more self-awareness than a child, perhaps this gets corrected early and on its own. Skinned knees have a way of doing that. But we all know situations where it doesn’t get corrected, the manager gives up like I did, and performance suffers. I just know I would have been a superstar volleyball player if only I could have seen better!
With the bifocal view you see near and far, noticing impact and patterns. You observe the impact of others’ actions on the team and the individual. You see how things go from great to “not good” in a meeting and why. You observe what gets an individual excited about a project and how that is different from the team. Only when you have the bifocal view do you get the full real-world experience, leaves and all.
Do you need help adjusting to the view as a new leader? Let’s find a time to talk or 713-705-3815.