Podcast: Leadership Amplitude Episode 11

Take a deep dive into leadership development and team optimization.

Leadership Purpose to Lead Others

It's hard to always know how to move forward on issues when there's so many voices, so many points of view, so many perceptions about each issue. In this episode, Dr. Sally Woods and Anna Slaydon discuss the Balcony Model of perspective and how your leadership purpose can help you move forward to more effectively lead others. 


Anna Slaydon: For leaders, perception is a tricky thing. It's hard to always know how to move forward on issues when there's so many voices, so many points of view, so many perceptions about each issue. On this episode, we'll be learning about how your leadership purpose can help you move forward and more effectively lead others. When we talk about leadership purpose to lead others, one of the things that I've heard a lot about here at the BB&T Leadership Institute is the Balcony Model. For our listeners, I'm going to go ahead and describe it quickly.

You can also visit our show notes, and you can actually see a picture of it, and you can find our show notes on our website. But essentially, it's kind of like if you think about how we might draw a cartoon mouse, where we have a big circle, and then on top of the big circle we've got two smaller circles. So get that picture in your mind, but then on those smaller circles, drop them down a little bit, so they're overlapping a little bit into the bigger circle, but they've still got a lot of room outside of that big circle. Is that how you guys would describe it?

Dr. Sally Woods: That's what the basics of it look like. And what this balcony model does, is it shows a very simple illustration of what goes on all day long in our lives, and particularly lives as leaders. I love the way you described that, Anna. So think about that middle circle, the bigger circle, representing truth or reality, the stuff that actually happens. Somebody said something, somebody did something, it actually happened, so that's that big middle circle. Then the smaller intersecting circle on the left represents my point of view, so your very own point of view.

As you can see, your point of view intersects reality to some degree, but there's a whole bunch of other stuff in that part of the circle that does not intersect reality that influences your point of view. Some of that stuff that's back there and influencing your point of view you're aware of, and some of it you're not; but regardless, it impacts how you view reality.

Anna Slaydon: So that might be stuff like whether I had breakfast this morning, and maybe I'm in a grouchy mood, or maybe a time where I had something similar happen and it was negative, and so I'm automatically reacting in a negative way. So it can be all kinds of things, right?

Dr. Sally Woods: It can be all kinds of things – experiences, beliefs that you already hold – experiences both big and small, you know? So beliefs that you hold, whether you're aware of them or not. All those kinds of things that influence us. And that third circle, others' point of view, and the exact same thing is going on for them, because it's a human condition. We have things that influence how we see reality, and then what happens is, when you look at those three intersecting circles, that's kind of how we walk around all day.

I see it my way, you see it your way, and if they happen to be different, then we might either get in conflict, or just say things like, "Oh well – perception is reality." But perception really isn't reality. It's how I treat reality, it's my perception of reality, but it isn't necessarily reality. So a leader, being a conscious leader, needs to do something different, other than just stay in their own point of view. It's our job as leaders to look at the whole picture. And so imagine up above these three intersecting circles there's an arc; we'd call that the balcony.

When a leader goes to the balcony – think about it as the balcony of your mind – they're able to really see clearer, more objectively, all three of these things. It causes me to ask questions about what might be influencing how I see things. It causes me as a leader to ask questions of the other person. "How come you see it that way? I really want to understand your point of view, and how it's different." It also causes me to look closer at the situation to see what I might be missing. So how does all this tie into purpose? Well, purpose is what helps you as a leader to get up and stay on the balcony.

Anna Slaydon: Whereas the gratitude journal was a tool of the idea of leadership purpose to lead yourself, it sounds like the balcony model is a tool to lead others. So you've got your leadership purpose, but then you actually apply it in terms of using that balcony model to understand that your perspective is not 100 percent true. It's not 100 percent false, necessarily, but it's not 100 percent true.

Dr. Sally Woods: Right.

Anna Slaydon: That other people's aren't 100 percent true or false, but that it's all still important to understand, and that if you go into the balcony and look at all of the information, everybody's perspective, then that gives you the data that can help inform how you apply your leadership purpose.

Dr. Chris Smith: Beautifully stated.

Dr. Sally Woods: Yeah, well said.

Dr. Chris Smith: I think I'm going to copy that and use it.

Anna Slaydon: Copyright 2018 The BB&T Leadership Institute


Dr. Chris Smith:  Anna, exactly - but I'm going to use that. One of the things that we know from the balcony model is that oftentimes, our perceptions are different than the perceptions of others, and that happens every day in the workplace. We get in disagreements, we have different perspectives. If you were listening to the last podcast, sometimes we get hung up on whether or not it's too cold or too hot in the office. But we get in disagreements, and the balcony model helps us recognize that that's largely based on us just having different perceptions than the people we work with and the other people on our team.

So when we get in conflict due to those different perceptions, it's often easy for us to get off track, to be less effective, to get stuck in our own beliefs, and we start telling people what to do. That's not effective leadership, and so one of the things that we hope people understand or learn is how to get back in that balcony position, so that they are being more considerate of others' perspectives. That they are seeking out others' perspectives, so they can make better leadership decisions. And one specific way to do that is through a leadership communication strategy model that we have here, that basically involves three steps: listening, asking and telling.

Oftentimes, in conflict we go straight to telling; we want to tell people how they should do something, and usually that's based on our beliefs and our perceptions. But to be on the balcony model, and to be thoughtful in considering others' perspectives, we need to back up, and before we start telling people what to do, we need to first listen, and give people a chance to really share their thoughts, share their perspectives.

And then when we think we understand what they're saying, maybe paraphrase those back, and give them a chance to correct us, and go through that cycle a couple of times until we're sure that we do understand what they've said, and that they feel heard. Once we get through that listening part of the strategy, then we move into asking, and using open-ended questions to really make sure that we're understanding their perspective. To give them a chance to share their thoughts, and really, through solution focused open-ended questions, we can help them start to form solutions, and help us move towards conflict resolution.

And only when we get through listening and asking can we really understand that other person's perspective, and then we move to the telling part of the strategy, which is providing direction, and telling people, based on our now-shared understanding of each other's perspectives, how they need to move forward. That's one way to tie together these concepts of leadership purpose and the balcony model, and these conflict resolution strategies. If we're able to effectively listen, then ask, then tell, then we can get back in that balcony position and lead from a position of purpose, as opposed to a position of reaction.

Dr. Sally Woods: Chris, that's great, with listen, ask, tell, and there might be some listeners out there saying, "Wow, that's just so simple and fundamental. Anybody knows how to do that." Our experience is, when there is conflict, listening is the first thing that goes out the window. As I, as a leader or a team member, start digging my heels into my own point of view, even as a leader, if I do that, I'll quit listening now. So your purpose helps you stay in that listening mode. Listening is actually an advanced leadership skill.

Anna Slaydon: Oh, wow.

Dr. Sally Woods: And it really emerges from your purpose. And if you are living in alignment with your purpose, it's probably going to draw you to listen more.

Anna Slaydon: As you're starting to go down this journey of really developing and harnessing that leadership purpose, if you can put those steps in place, even if they may not feel natural initially, even if you're still getting the swing of applying that leadership purpose, you can almost manually force yourself into that mindset by saying to yourself, "Okay, I'm feeling like I'm in conflict. I'm feeling stressed out. I remember on the podcast, they said listen, ask, tell. Let me go ahead and do that, even though it's not feeling natural to me. Let me do it."

And over time, that can become more habitual as reflecting on your leadership purpose and using that as a guide becomes more natural for you as well.

Dr. Sally Woods: You've just described how learning happens. We practice doing something; it feels uncomfortable; and then it becomes a part of who we are.

Anna Slaydon: Well, we like to learn here on this podcast.

Dr. Sally Woods: We do.

Dr. Chris Smith: We do.

Anna Slaydon: Join us for our next episode as we wrap up this series on Leadership Purpose with how your purpose can really help you lead your organization to greater success. We are in the final stages of developing an exciting new series focusing on organizational culture that we'll be bringing to you in just a few weeks. In the meantime, if you've enjoyed the episodes you've been listening to, please make sure to give us a rate and review. That feedback really helps us grow and develop new content.

For show notes or for additional information, find us at BBTLeadershipInstitute.com. Leadership Amplitude is a podcast production of the BB&T Leadership Institute. All rights reserved.

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