When you are approaching interactions or assessing relationships at work, as we have noted, it can be useful to reframe the context in which you are considering these issues, to be sure you have developed the perspective that works best all around. Let’s take another very brief look at that.

If you, per yesterday’s example, have an immediate need for a task to be performed, the easiest thing to do is simply to relieve that tension: issue an order to whichever appropriate junior first comes to mind, and forget about it until the deadline arrives. With so few factors impinging on the interaction when using this approach, you are left with a lot more freedom of maneuver with respect to how you engage in it. You can be matter-of-fact, distracted by the next matter demanding your attention, brusque, or you can even devote unwarranted attention to it either because you are an instinctive micro-manager or you are unduly or artificially solicitous of how you are viewed personally by your staff.

But, again, what if you back up to view the tasking in the context of the role it plays in a larger event; the junior’s strengths, weaknesses, and ambitions; your own needs for talent, ability, and skills of various types throughout your unit, and the like? The point here isn’t merely that you have reframed your perspective so that you can see how matters fit in to the larger picture; it’s that you have expanded the number of previously un-noted factors related in various degrees to your immediate issue that now fit into that picture.

This requires – or allows – you to get a better view of how things affect each other, whether negatively or positively. You may see that the narrowly-focused approach you considered at first could have been better assigned or handled, or even could have been harmful in previously unrecognized ways, once you back away and look at the larger workplace landscape.

On the other hand, you may find yourself backing away too far. This may happen because some of the new factors that enter your frame as you widen it encourage you to nudge it further out, distracting you from the central problem. Or, you may just overshoot the mark. What you will notice in either event is that the factors you are considering begin to de-cohere, and the matter at hand starts to get lost in the traffic of implications you are trying to deal with.

So, experiment with the focus. Pull back until the new elements entering in to your field of view help you comprehend the issue more clearly. But when they increase to the point that they obstruct your vision, and you notice that they are beginning to obfuscate rather than clarify the issue, draw back in until the pieces fall back in to place.

Just bear in mind that there is no correct focal length for a given situation. You don’t back up this many organizational levels for a tasking or that many for a project proposal. You adjust to the extent that makes sense of the situation for you.

Moreover, it is entirely appropriate for you to make different determinations regarding that than your colleagues facing comparable conditions at similar levels of management in other companies or industries, or even than your peers in your own company and division. Your own managerial personality, professional biases, and even periodic areas of particular operational concern, are themselves factors bearing on the matter in a perfectly legitimate way.

There is no school solution – just the one that works for you, your team, and your purpose at the particular time that you are addressing it. It’s the one you see. Just be sure you position yourself where you can best make it out.

We’ll try to close this up tomorrow. See you then!

Today’s tip: Speaking of integrating new perspectives on an ordinary-seeming issue, please do spend just a few minutes with this outstanding video about thinking and boxes, courtesy of the incomparable Eclecticity.

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