New Ideas for Picking Up the Outside-In Perspective

Posted 09.20.2010

Earth1 The second edition of my book, The Next Level, is going to be released in October. Over the next month, I’ll be sharing some highlights of what’s different in the new edition. One of the goals I had in writing the new edition was to bring more global leadership perspective to the book. In the original chapter on the importance of leaders picking up an outside–in perspective and letting go of an inside-out view of your  function, I wrote that making that shift involves a broadening of perspective from me to us to them. You first have to get over the me mindset that drives a lot of new leaders and shift to an us perspective. What’s in it for us? To really move to an outside-in perspective, you then have to take the team from the us mindset to the them mindset. What’s in it for them? The them can be any constituency on the outside – customers, competitors, suppliers, regulators, political leaders, etc. In today’s world,  just about every team has some global “thems” to consider. 

In writing the second edition, I wanted to provide some new thinking and ideas on picking up a global perspective on the outside in approach so I interviewed a lot of executives who think that way. One of those executives was James Kelly. James is the founder of what is now the global consulting firm Capgemini. After a long career of working with global organizations, James describes the trap that a lot of leaders step into:

“The fact is, there are talented people all over the world. The cultures and economic opportunities are different in different parts of the world. The more high level an executive you become, the more you have to help people connect and learn across the boundaries. You can’t just come in and say you know what has to be done and you’re going to tell people how to do it. . . . One of the barriers I’ve seen is when people come in with the mind-set of saying I need to own the answers because of my experience. [Today’s world requires] a much more collaborative and open-minded approach to listening and communicating. It requires deliberately speaking to people who may be peers or subordinates before you think you have answers and, in the process, actually engaging with other people to create those answers. In an increasingly global world, that’s extremely important.”

So how do you guard against the myopia of the inside out view and pick up that outside in perspective? As Steve Jobs might say, James Kelly has an app for that. Here’s Kelly’s three step process for picking up an outside in perspective:

“You need to deliberately expand the conversation to actually bring in a broader population to create a far more open effort to take the outside-in view of the situation. There are three important things to consider in setting up these collaborative conversations:

  • First, you want to have a mixture of people so that it isn’t just hierarchical. You deliberately bring in a mixture of senior and more junior people.
  • Second, you need to have a mixture of geographies and, in the case of global organizations, people from all over the world.
  • Third, you need to make sure that it’s not just a show-and-tell session. It should be a learning and sharing of experience and insight through a deliberate process. It’s not walking into the group of forty and doing your PowerPoint presentation and simply telling. That’s a waste of time and it’s boring.”

What have you done to pick up an outside in perspective and let go of inside out myopia? What coaching advice do you have on the subject?