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Three Essential Leadership Tools

    We all know being a manager is no cakewalk. You’ve got to juggle more tasks than a circus performer, from problem-solving to decision-making, and everything in between. Sure, there are tons of fancy gadgets and digital tools out there to help you, but today, we’re talking about a different kind of tool kit – one that doesn’t cost a dime, is always accessible, has no add-ons or upgrades, and is easily adaptable.

    Arm yourself with three mind-bending tools that will level up your thinking, whether you’re tackling a tough problem, making critical decisions, or embarking on a journey of personal growth. Meet your new best friends: Clear Lenses, a Spotlight, and a Mirror.

    Clear Lenses, a Spotlight, and a Mirror

    Often, our actions and decisions are influenced by emotion or hasty judgment, lacking the clarity and impartial information needed for sound choices. We resort to standardized solutions that skim the surface, failing to address underlying issues, much like applying band-aids without getting at the root causes. We may expend considerable effort to improve something that is already working while ignoring what genuinely requires our attention. To avoid these pitfalls and steer your actions towards more favorable outcomes, try using these three tools and witness how they make a difference.

    Clear Lenses

    Let’s start with Clear Lenses – your trusty set of reality goggles. We all have our own perspective, our own way of looking at the world. If you haven’t already, take a moment to check out this post and see if you can spot your own lens shade. 😎

    When it comes to big-league leadership stuff like making critical calls, problem-solving, or managing performance, your lens might just blur the line between fact and fiction. That’s when you need those Clear Lenses. Pop them on, and suddenly, judgment and emotions are out the window, and it’s all about data, logic, and reason. Just the cold, hard facts, please.

    Still not convinced? Let’s look at some real-world examples.

    Example One

    Imagine you’re a manager, and you’re promoting a former colleague because you’re confident they can ace the job based on your previous working experience. Fast forward six months, and the employee’s performance is in the gutter. You’re convinced they’ll improve over time, so you hold off on a performance improvement plan, let excuses slide, and lower your expectations.

    Example Two

    An employee is consistently late for work. You know they’re a single parent with three kids – a situation you can totally relate to since you’re a single parent too and sometimes struggle to clock in on time. So, you decide to let it slide.

    In the first example, your past relationship and friendship might be clouding your judgment. Emotions and personal connections are creeping into your decision-making process. In the second scenario, your own experiences are influencing your choices. Once again, emotions and personal perception are taking center stage.

    Bottom line? It’s tough to put your likes and dislikes aside and see reality for what it is. Clear Lenses force you to ask the right questions: What’s driving my decisions? Are my biases in the driver’s seat? Am I letting my feelings muddy the waters?

    Here’s a pro tip: you might need a buddy, a coworker, or a mentor to help you rock those Clear Lenses. The key is realizing that as a leader, your perceptions have limits, and you need to open up to other perspectives. Your secret weapon? Anyone willing to challenge your viewpoint.

    “To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.”

    Stephen R. Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

    The Spotlight

    Now, let’s move on to The Spotlight – your ultimate focus booster. As a leader, your plate is overflowing, and it’s easy to slip into autopilot mode, making decisions based on assumptions and barely scratching the surface of problem-solving. But the world’s changing at warp speed, and what used to work might not cut it anymore.

    Enter The Spotlight. It’s like a high-powered flashlight that lets you zoom in on the nitty-gritty details. No more assumptions or surface-level solutions – it’s all about digging deep. Let’s dive into an example. 🔦


    Your team isn’t hitting the mark on their sales targets. After a brief discussion, you decide they need a three-week product training program. Everyone completes the training, but guess what? Sales barely budge.

    In this scenario, it’s unlikely that product training was the real issue – or at least not the root cause. More often than not, additional training is just a Band-Aid solution to cover up deeper problems. The Spotlight lets you get nosy. Shine it on your team’s capabilities, actions, attitudes, processes, inefficiencies, work environment – you name it. Ask the golden question: “What’s really going on here?” Channel your inner curious child and ask “why” until you’ve got a clear picture.

    Sure, it takes some sweat and elbow grease to operate The Spotlight, but trust me, you won’t waste time on plans that lead to nowhere.

    “The task is…not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.”

    Erwin Schrödinger

    A Mirror

    Last but not least, let’s talk about A Mirror – your reality-check buddy. It’s like a magnifying glass for your flaws and strengths. This isn’t about finding fault, though. It’s about owning up to what’s there and using that knowledge to blaze a trail forward. Let’s dive into another example.

    An example

    Your workplace resembles a disaster zone. Paper stacks everywhere, half-eaten food, and coffee cups scattered around, old equipment gathering dust – it’s chaos. Even the customer chairs are frayed and stained, and finding a physical document feels like a treasure hunt.

    What do you see when you hold the mirror up to your personal work space?

    You see a workspace that looks like a recycling bin tipped over. The mess doesn’t bother you, and filing? Forget about it. You often chow down on lunch at your desk. Your office furniture could use a bit of love.

    In this scenario, there may be several factors contributing to the messy work environment,  but the mirror doesn’t lie – you’re one of them. When you’re wondering why things are the way they are, a mirror is your starting point to uncover some blind spots and seek self-reflection. 🪞

    “It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”

    Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

    Using the Tools

    Make these tools your daily companions. Whip them out when you’re tackling a problem, making critical decisions, or on the quest for personal growth. You don’t need the physical tools, but hey, having a mirror on your desk or slipping on those clear lenses can be a nifty reminder.

    You can even get your team in on the action. Bring The Spotlight to your next meeting or hand out Clear Glasses. Pick a challenge you want to conquer, and use these tools to dissect the details with laser focus. What’s working? What’s not? Why? Don’t let emotions, judgments, or tunnel vision cloud your judgment. Encourage your crew to do some soul-searching too. Have them look in the mirror and figure out how they contribute to the goal – or if they’re dragging it down.


    Now, if you’ve been following our posts, you’ll notice the little Ponder Points at the end of each article. Well, those are your personal mirror moments. When you reflect on those questions, hold up a mirror and answer with crystal-clear clarity. Your leadership journey just got a whole lot more interesting, my friends. 

    Ponder Points

    Clear Lenses Reflection: Identify a recent decision or situation where your emotions or personal biases might have influenced your judgment. How could applying “Clear Lenses” have led to a different, more objective outcome? What steps can you take to ensure you use clear lenses in similar situations moving forward?

    Spotlight Self-Examination: Recall a problem or challenge you’ve encountered at work. Did you address it by merely skimming the surface or making assumptions? How might shining “The Spotlight” on the issue and digging into details have led to a more effective solution? What strategies can you implement to ensure you use this tool for in-depth problem-solving?

    Mirror Moment: Reflect on your workplace or leadership style. Are there any blind spots or aspects you’ve been overlooking, similar to the messy workspace described in the post? What would a mirror reveal about your leadership approach, and how can you use this tool to become more self-aware and make improvements?

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