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A Side of Perspective

By Joey Havens

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Different world perception.

We have just completed two days of leadership training and work on effective decision-making and communications with a Tennessee client. Day 2 is ending with lunch at a cooking school for an added treat to all the hard work that this team has put in to transform their team and company. 

It really has been amazing to see how they have reorganized for highest and best use and the level of candor and ideas are growing every meeting. Today as we sit for our lunch together, everyone is laughing again at an incident that happened on the trip from Tennessee to our office in Ridgeland, MS. Seven or eight of the team members drove down in a Mercedes Luxury Van, playing music based on artists named Jackson.

About two hours away from Ridgeland, they pulled into a gas station to fill up with diesel and take a bathroom break. One of the passengers, let’s call her Sherry, had been asleep. As they pulled up to the door on the side of the store facing the interstate, everyone but Sherry piled out in a big hurry. Sherry was a little slow waking up and getting herself oriented. 

Between some comments from team members coming back to the van and the appearance of the front of the store, Sherry informs the driver that she is not going to the restroom here and to please find a better one. She settles back in and fades back into dozing a little. The rest of the team gets on board and the driver realizes the diesel is on the other side of the gas station so he cranks up and pulls around the gas station to the other side. 

As he pulls up and cuts the van off to fill up, Sherry wakes up, proceeds to exit the van and heads to the door of the gas station. Everyone on the van realizes that she thinks they have left this station and pulled up at another one. They are starting to giggle and laugh as Sherry pauses at the door. But after a short hesitation, she proceeds in, uses the facilities and comes back out to the van with no idea that she has just entered the station that earlier she refused to use. 

You can guess that everyone was laughing as she boarded the van. This incident continued to highlight our meal together as various team members shared their version of the story. Even Sherry was laughing along with everyone.  

Let’s think a minute about her perspective. At first glance, she was NO, not for me and when she believed they were at a second station, her perspective was certainly less critical as she entered the same gas station! With just a slight change, she went from NO to YES.   

This funny incident does provide us some insights into how quick we can be to make assumptions and establish opinions with little information. Our brains are programmed to be lazy and use our prior experiences to make quick easy decisions. When we find ourselves quickly forming an opinion where we become blind/resistant to more information, we are being close-minded. 

It’s when we take our assumptions, withhold a quick decision and test those assumptions against more information or contrary information that we make better decisions. How often do we take a position on a matter that really if we simply looked at the other side of the coin, it’s not really a big deal. 

Our leadership lesson this week is to be aware of when we are forming a viewpoint very quickly on an important matter. Pause, step back. What does the other side look like?    

Now sometimes our instinct is correct and should never be discounted just because it comes quickly. Based on Sherry’s actual experience once inside, she laughs and says her initial reaction was the correct one.