Leadership Retreats Resources

Whose Shoes?

April 17, 2017
Lead Organizations
Russ Sarratt

Most of us wake up each morning and head to our closets to pick out clothes for the day. Some may wear a uniform every day; others may get to choose daily outfits that match their own personal styles.

Regardless of daily attire, we all take the same final action when getting ready for the day: we put on shoes. In America, most of us are fortunate enough to have multiple pairs of shoes from which to choose. Some may pick their shoes based on fashion; (“Do these go with what I am wearing today?”). Others may choose their shoes based on comfort (“Will these shoes allow me to accomplish today’s tasks?”). If you have ever spent the majority of a day on your feet, you understand that the right pair of shoes can change your perspective.

Managing change in an organization actually shares some commonality with deciding on appropriate shoes. Have you ever heard of the old proverb “before you criticize a man/woman, walk a mile in his/her shoes?” Let’s take a look at how putting yourself in another person’s shoes can totally alter perspective when considering change.

Try walking in your boss’ shoes.

How would your boss view the decision or change you are facing? Has he/she had the opportunity to speak into the situation? Putting yourself in your boss’ shoes means you are attempting to look at the bigger picture. It means looking at the decision’s effect on the organization as a whole.

Try walking in your team’s shoes.

How will your direct team react to this change? How can you best communicate it in a way that will enable their understanding? Can you create an opportunity for them to give input? We spend the most time with our immediate team; thus we may end up either focusing solely on them or failing to consider them at all. Both of these extremes are unhealthy, especially in a situation involving change.

Try walking in another department’s/team’s shoes.

Have you thought of the ramifications of a particular change on other teams in the organization? Have you attempted to understand how all will be affected by the change? Focus your thoughts on any teams that regularly interact with your team. Will a proposed change cause any hardship for them? Will they have greater clarity or greater confusion as a result of the change you consider implementing?

Try walking in your clients/customer’s shoes.

Will this change affect your customer’s experience in any way? Will it make it harder for them to get what they want or need from your organization? Try asking a small sample group of clients how they would be affected by the proposed change.

To walk a mile in someone’s shoes means to see things from their perspective. It requires you to understand what another values most in any given situation. Seeing things from another perspective requires you to think through the possible ramifications in various scenarios. It means asking lots of questions and doing a lot of listening.

The next time you consider the possibility of making a change, take a walk to your closet. Let your shoes remind you to consider others perspectives and not just your own.