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Getting different perspectives – the empty chair

Getting different perspectives – the empty chair

Getting different perspectives – the empty chair

A key to teams making successful decisions is gathering different perspectives on the different issues at play. Naturally the people in the team bring their own perspectives, however depending on the team make up and dynamics these perspectives may not be as diverse as is needed. There is also the issue of time, things have to be dealt with and decisions made.

When I work with teams on developing their team purpose I do an exercise that sees them stand in the shoes of their key stakeholders to ask them what they need from this team.

Examples of stakeholders are:

  • Ourselves and our current and future team members
  • The business and its shareholders
  • Current and future customers

This is a powerful exercise that allows a view of different perspectives. It is made all the more powerful when the team is asked to stand in the shoes of their collective future grandchildren and the environment – as you can imagine when faced with this perspective the conversations deepens!

So how to do this with your own team? As a result of this exercise many teams resolve to bring in the empty chair or chairs to their meetings. The empty chair represents one of the stakeholders who is absent but important to the discussion, and when needed someone on the team will sit in the chair and voice the perspective of that stakeholder. This has led to some teams have proactively bringing stakeholders into the meetings as appropriate.

It may seem strange, but the empty chair works – give it a try and your next team meeting and see what happens.

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