The Beach Ball Perspective

by Dory Willer

For as long as I can recall, I have had a knack for seeing possibilities — an innate talent that has served me well, especially as a Coach. It doesn’t matter what the circumstance, issue, or problem, people can count on me to see things from a differing perspective – broadening their own perspective. It’s the way I’m wired, and a good thing too because the C-suite and senior team clients I work with value the coaching I provide on expanding this skill for themselves.

You see, we trip ourselves up with our so-called issues and problems when we look at them from just one perspective – the perspective we are accustomed to. I’m a great fan of Albert Einstein’s quote: “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.” I love to illustrate the point of this quote with our Best Year Yet Beach Ball Principle.

We have a gigantic striped beach ball sitting between us. What color is the beach ball from your perspective? You might say, “Blue.” And, I will quickly quip back, “What on earth are you smoking? It is red, definitely red!” You might agree that there might be a red stripe. And, you know that only because you’re imagining the beach ball from a broader perspective. For example, a knowledge or former experience of seeing a beach ball from a distance versus seeing the whole ball. It clearly has several different colors, including white. This illustration becomes a metaphor for us as we continue to work together. Later, in a future coaching session when we are discussing a problem situation, I will trigger with “what color is the beach ball” — reminding you to step back and view the issue from a broader point of view.

Let’s say the problem is with a major customer, I might suggest to you that you jump into the shoes of your customer and ask you to take on their perspective. What is it that they perceive? What is most important to them from their vantage point? Or, what might another industry do with a similar situation?

It’s not always easy to just jump into another’s shoes to take on another’s perspective. There are tactical skills involved to do so. The first involves attentively listening. You must provide full attention to what is being said and what is not being said. Tap into your intuitive gut to capture what is between the lines. Turn off your chattering mind to truly listen to what is being conveyed. Absolutely, skill #1 – required!

Another way that I might help you re-wire your thoughts (broadening your perspective) is using a dose of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). If you’re not familiar with this process, I highly recommend Sue Annis Hammond’s book, The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. The manner in which I use AI is first asking you the question: What can I appreciate about this issue or problem? In the example cited above with the VIP customer, I would apply AI and state, “It’s great that the customer came to your company to tell you what’s not working rather than simply not renewing their contract.” Continuing with AI, we would sharpen your focus by asking the following questions:

  • What’s not quite right yet?
  • What is it that needs to be improved?
  • What is the first thing we can do to make it ‘right’?

Through these reflective questions, we gain a helicopter perspective of the issue. . .up, round, and underneath, pulling back to get a BIG picture view. I like to equate this to the pie of life. We all have a slice of pie of what we know (e.g., how a plane flies), and then another slice of what we know that we don’t know (e.g., how to build a jet engine). However, the largest portion of the pie of life is what we don’t know; we couldn’t even fathom, nor have access to knowing. Our perspective is built and created from what we have experienced, what we have learned, and our imagination. Our perspective broadens when we learn new things, have new experiences, and expand our imagination. Amping up the power of our imagination is the added value we bring to work, and to solving problems. This brings to mind another favorite quote, from Abraham Maslow, helping drive home my point (pun intended):

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

I leave you with this Dose of Coach Dory:

  • What problem are you facing today?
  • What appreciative thought can you reach about this problem? In other words, what is the opportunity that it births for you?
  • Where are you seeing your world anew?
  • What are you doing today to cultivate and nurture your (and your team’s) imagination?

Dory Willer, PCC, SPHR, founder of Beacon Quest Coaching in the greater San Francisco Bay Area of California, is a certified executive and organizational success coach. Willer was named the 2003 International Coach of the Year, and has been coaching companies like Yahoo!, Wells Fargo Bank, Northrop Grumman, and Boards of Directors since 1999 produce thriving results year-after-year with their Best Year Yet plans. Learn more at www.BeaconQuest.com or email Dory at Dory@BeaconQuest.com.