Flip Your Funnel - How Leaders Expand their Lens
while Honoring “Peer-spectives”
Sandy Cameli, Ed.D.
Leaders are often tasked with guiding followers toward a prescribed direction. And, with a goal of moving an initiative or organization forward, said leaders often work under the assumption that common perspectives are shared. Yet, perspectives can also be divisive - take current day politics for example - and cause irreparable damage to systems, structures or relationships when not acknowledged or honored. Thus, it can be a challenge for any leader to be truly effective when one’s own point of view does not align with colleagues’ “peer-spectives”.
A perspective can be defined as a visible scene, a specific technique or a viewpoint expressing one’s ideas, it can also be limited by an individual’s angle or attitude. Additionally, perspectives are often sought after, even celebrated, when they enhance decision making or provide support to those seeking guidance. So how does a growth-minded leader expand his or her perspective in order to serve as well as enhance agency in others? Grab a funnel and let’s get to work!
In the kitchen, the purpose of a funnel is to narrow contents from a bigger container into a smaller one. A cook may also use it to measure or channel ingredients through the apex in order to produce a desired dish or meal. The ultimate goal of the wide end of a funnel is to whittle down a large quantity to a precise outcome. In other words, narrowing the scope of what is visibly plated. Let’s see how an innovative chef took this simple item and repurposed it to expand others’ perspectives:
On a recent celebrity food show, the host was preparing cakes and pies for children’s birthday parties. A variety of decorating tools were used to create eye-catching displays for the desserts presented. And, in an unconventional use of a common tool the chef flipped a funnel to allow sprinkles and candies to siphon through the narrow end, and spray randomly over the cream cheese toppings below. It was messy and chaotic, but it yielded such unique designs for each cupcake creation! The unicorn-inspired treats were not uniform in appearance, nor could a recipient be guaranteed the same pattern as another, but what the technique lacked in professional craft it made up for in the wow-factor! This culinary artist had flipped a funnel on a routine practice and changed the perspective of an ordinary kitchen utensil for the audience who became enthralled by the confetti creations. This innovative display posed a thought-provoking inquiry for out-of-the-box thinkers: How then might flipping-a-funnel impact a leader’s lens, practice or effectiveness?
The following acronym for FLIP applies simple steps for expanding perspectives:
F = Focus on intentionally seeing situations from various angles. It's common knowledge that 3+3=6, but so does 2+4, how else can problems or issues be analyzed without reverting to the same techniques? Similar to goal-setting, one must build in rituals and routines to seek out alternatives for action items. Habitual practices produce muscle memory, which continually expands one’s lens for communication, decision-making and problem solving, often eliciting effective results.
L = Limit guidance from the same resources. Leaders certainly appreciate and draw comfort from a tried & true library of knowledge, but what other resources may be overlooked that could stretch and impact a leader's thinking? What of value has been possibly missed or not considered in the past? How can published works from counter-opinions inform one's practice?
I = Invite other voices to the table. Who has not been visible or on a leader's radar in recent months? Who appears to contradict or oppose ideas on a regular basis, but could help a leader see things differently if asked? Who represents various stakeholders and should be at the table? How can “peer-spectives” enhance current practices and leadership traits?
P = Promote and publicize others’ ideas in order to build capacity for collective leading. Shared leadership is only effective when equity in responsibility and recognition exists in tandem. Which contributions from peers might appeal to a wider audience or targeted stakeholders? What blindspots do leaders possess that may prevent them from highlighting the work of others? How can incorporating invitational language into “asks” build confidence, and grow leadership in colleagues?
The funnel analogy is not a fix-it solution, nor will it instantly alter an individual’s practice; however, readers are invited to look through both ends of a funnel and to compare what is seen, and what is missed. How much more can be observed when we flip our funnels to the narrow side and view outward? What might be missing from our current vantage points? And finally, how can an expanded perspective honor and appreciate “peer-spectives” in order to strengthen the culture and climate of our working and learning environments?