In his book The Next Level, Scott Eblin warns against being too myopic, which can lead to silos in organizations or businesses. We all understand our organization or business, but often only from one seat or perspective. I bring this up because of a conversation I had last week with one of our senior staff leaders in my organization, the National Trust. We were discussing ways in which we could help individuals on our team who become too closely identified with one program, their work in one city or region, or expertise in saving one type of historic resource. It reminded me of my own experience.
Several years ago I was working with an executive coach. After receiving 360 degree feedback on my work, she asked to see my resume, which listed my various preservation jobs since I entered the field. Once she reviewed the resume, my coach had me undertake what I thought at the time was an unusual task. I was to rewrite my vita without using the words “historic preservation” or without the name of any of the agencies or organizations where I had worked. In other words, she wanted me to take a fresh perspective as to who I was and my capabilities at the professional level. That led me to think about my eight-year stint as executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Virginia, for instance, in terms of skills and accomplishments without relying on the jargon of my profession. No “I led an effort to enact Virginia’s historic preservation tax credit” for this exercise. Instead I had to talk about coordination of a network of supporters, communication of key concepts to the media, collaboration with partners to reach new audiences outside my professional field, and providing effective testimony before legislative committees.
It was an eye-opening experience. I had become so identified in my own mind with my preservation career, that I simply never put much thought into how the skills required to do my job translated into a broader world of possibilities. This exercise, along with several others she had me do, forced me to look at my career, skills, and life with a new perspective.
When one becomes myopic, you don’t step back to think about the type of skills you may bring to other work where you could be a valuable team member. Similarly, you don’t think of areas where you may want to seek training to broaden your expertise. Let me encourage you, as you think about your work and what you bring to making a difference in this world, that you think bigger and try a fresh perspective every now and then. I suspect you will be surprised at what you find.
Have a great week.
More to come…