"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life."
Arthur Ashe

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 391

Estimated reading time:  2.30 minutes



This past week we enjoyed a wonderful and fascinating experience at a restaurant in Vancouver called “Dark Table”. All of the servers are visually impaired and the restaurant itself is pitch dark inside. You cannot see the table, your dinner companions or the meal. In fact, both the appetizer and dessert were surprises and we ate them up trying to determine what the tastes in fact were.


This got me thinking about the “other.” In philosophical circles, the “other” represents that which is different from us; outside our experience. Men are “other” to women, for example. We can intellectually try to understand, but we cannot completely understand, emotionally, physically and psychically. For example, a transgendered woman I know, in the midst of her journey from male to female was thrilled to note one day, “chocolate does taste different as a woman!”


To spend even a few hours then experiencing conversation, mobility, eating and navigating a social situation without my sight was a powerful experience of “other.” I will likely never completely know what it is like to live without sight, but I did taste it. I was surprised for example how difficult it is to use a fork when you can’t see your food. I would periodically put my fork in my mouth to find there was in fact nothing on it. Or trying to find the last piece of vegetable on an otherwise empty plate. And from a leadership perspective I was reminded of how important it is to shift perspectives when ever possible, especially to try to “see” the world through an other’s eyes.


A key to this perspective shifting is to avoid making the very common error of assuming that your perspective is ‘normal’ or even normative. Remember, apparently chocolate does taste different to different people. 


Here are three deceptively simple practices that will support you in gaining different perspectives:


  1. Ask people about what they see, what their experience tells them, rather than jumping to your own conclusions 
  2. In meetings you regularly attend, sit in a different chair each meeting.
  3. Break a habit; even one as innocuous as listening to the same radio station in the morning. You will be creating new wiring in your brain. New wiring can lead to new perspectives.



May this week be filled with new perspectives and learning about the “other”