Look out

Last spring was a blur.

We took four international trips (Ireland, Spain, France, Thailand) in just six weeks. I had a graduating senior with all of the calendar swirl that comes with the last semester of high school. All on top of the usual to dos that come with running a business, managing our personal to dos, and caring for the important relationships in our lives!

One quiet, Saturday morning, I woke up thinking that I would grab my coffee, crawl back into bed, and look out at the beautiful dogwood tree just out my bedroom window. So, I made my coffee, set the steaming cup on my bedside table, and I went to open the shutters only to discover that the view was not the white blossoms I was anticipating; instead, there was a mass of full, green leaves. In the midst of the full and busy spring, I completely missed the white blossoms.

Ever since that Saturday morning, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we miss when we don’t take the time to look out.

To look out our office windows or around our cube wall to soak in what’s happening with our teams and in our work environment. To look out from the next few weeks of deadlines and deliverables to do some mindful thinking and more intentional planning. To look out beyond the walls of our own companies to see what’s is going on in other places in our industry or perhaps in other – more creative – industries for inspiration. To look out our bedroom window to help us remember that there is a great big, beautiful world out there for us to live in well and enjoy fully.

So, this year, I ’ve embarked on a looking out experiment not only to learn about what we miss when we don’t look out, but also to appreciate what we gain when we do.

Here’s what I’m learning:

Looking OUT brings perspective.

When we are only looking down or straight ahead at what’s right in front of us, our problems can feel overwhelming, so much so that we cannot see or feel the benefit of good, creative thinking to solve them. In these situations, looking OUT reminds us that perhaps our problem of the week may not be as bad or dramatic as it feels.

Looking OUT brings a more true sense of what is going on with your team.

When we are laser-focused on our own to-do list, messy desk, the next five deliverables or meetings, we start to lose our barometer on how the team is doing. I’ve seen many leaders (and I’ve fallen into the trap myself) forget how to leverage the power of the team to solve problems or make things happen when they’re stuck in tunnel vision. It takes time and attention to leverage the full talent of your team. You have a team for a reason—the collective is stronger than any one individual, including ourselves as leaders (however fabulous we may be). Looking beyond our own ‘stuff’ to think creatively about how to engage your team in the opportunity or challenge you are facing has a higher ROI than going it alone!

Looking OUT brings creative inspiration.

This is a lesson I have been learning over and over and over again in my life. When I take the time to read and learn about the ideas, approaches, and endeavors, of others it always gives me a spark of inspiration that leads me to more of my own more creative thinking. Spending time absorbing what is going on ‘out there’ may feel like an indulgence you don’t have time for, but it’s another investment with strong creative lift payoff in your work

Looking OUT brings the ability to see issues or obstacles before they hit.

Have you ever had a ‘why didn’t I see that coming’ moment? Those moments make me feel asleep at the wheel when they happen to me. I don’t think it’s a lack of smarts that causes those moments in our lives; it’s that we didn’t take the time to see what was around us or what was up ahead.

I’m guessing that at this point you are thinking, “yeah right, but you haven’t seen my schedule or my 2016 goals; you don’t understand my demanding boss or our speed-addicted company culture”. I get it.

So, here are some simple ways you can build in even a small amount of look OUT time into your days:

  1. Schedule office look OUT time. Schedule a recurring appointment on your calendar to soak up what’s going on in your office. Spend that time walking around the office or, if your own office gives you a good vantage point, just looking out your door may work.Here are some things to think about as you look around:
    • What’s the mood?
    • Who looks engaged? Who looks disengaged?
    • Who have you not spent time with recently that you should check in with? Who would be good to help you figure out how to tackle that bear of a project you just got handed?
  2. Set Look OUT alarms on your phone. I’m coaching a client right now who has recently started setting an alarm three times a day as a reminder to take three deep breaths. He tells me it’s helping him be less reactive and thinks he is listening more intently as a result. You can do the same as a reminder to look OUT; when the alarm goes off, take a few minutes to step outside, take a walk around the block or even just look out your office window.
  3. Commit to periodic Look OUT and think time. This could be 30 minutes a week or an hour or two a month or a day or few days each year. The idea here is to take time to expose yourself to new ideas from outside your day-to- day world and to open yourself up to those ideas that inspire you to think about things you can do to lead your business in new, high impact ways.
  4. Look OUT side of your comfort zone. Occasionally watch, listen to or read an article from a media outlet that you don’t normally follow; get familiar with a perspective that differs from your world view, but might be able to give you deeper insight.

I hope you’ll try one (or perhaps a couple!) of these look OUT practices. When you do, please feel free to share what you learn or see differently when you look OUT!

Just a few minutes of looking OUT just might give you the perspective, inspiration, and vision you need to take your leadership to the next level.

<h2 class="share">Share this page</h2>
Share on Facebook
Share on LinkedIn
Tweet about this on Twitter
Pin on Pinterest
Email to someone

Leave a Reply

Scroll Up