Challenge Your Assumptions: How to See the Tree

April 10, 2013

Challenge Your Assumptions: How to See the Tree

Ready to challenge your assumptions? What is the picture to the left? A tree, right? Or is it?

From the perspective of a squirrel, this “tree” could be seen as food (walnuts or acorns). For a bird, this tree could be seen as shelter or a place to build a home. For a lumberjack, this tree could represent a significant source of income (a prime veneer-quality walnut log that could fetch tens of thousands of dollars). None of these answers are wrong. They are all correct, from the perspective of the beholder.

The purpose of this exercise is to remind you about how securely you are located in your perspective. Sometimes you might not only fail to see the forest, you may fail to see the tree(s) right in front of you. Remember, we’re talking metaphorically here; the “tree” might be a business process, a particular account, or a piece of office furniture. You may be so familiar with this “tree” that you don’t give it any thought. And if you do think about it, you think about what this particular tree offers you–shade, privacy, or color/beauty perhaps–or prohibits you from seeing (a clear view from a window perhaps). You may not think about how others are affected by that tree.

Visionary leaders not only pause to challenge their own assumptions, they also pause to consider others’ perspectives.

Challenge your assumptions. Try to imagine what the “tree” means to yourself and others before you take action or ask others to act.

“Seek first to understand then to be understood.”–Stephen Covey

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