Much of our success in consulting comes from seeing what others cannot. For example, assisting clients by helping them create better plans (that follow the quickest, most effective path to success), avoid costly and delay-ridden pitfalls that few realize exist, and successfully navigate through stormy waters……all quite important in making high impact decisions, implementing significant change initiatives and for growing the business.

In my past, this “blessing” was also a curse. For example, early in my career I brought up what I thought would cause an issue down-the-line that could result in a negative impact on our key customers. Do you think I was received with a BIG thank you for finding this potential bottleneck? Heck NO!

Instead, management thought I was part of the problem because they saw my concern about future issues as worrying about things that aren’t important. From their perspective, if you look at just the next step and the related impact, it wasn’t a big deal – certainly nothing to get worked up about. The issue didn’t arise until a few steps beyond that, and no one was thinking that far down-the-line (or couldn’t see it). Or perhaps things would change. And, if they did respond to my concern, it would divert attention from the current priorities and make some folks uncomfortable. Totally understandable. Yet the key customer issues did occur. Thus, I had to get better at communicating these down-the-line impacts in a more powerful way!

Luckily, I did improve my communication over time (and it is a never-ending process) but I also was fortunate that a new CEO came along at just the right time in my career who focused on results – and listened to these concerns. Without him, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. Thanks Mike!

Even today, these types of issues arise from time to time; however, I’ve been quite fortunate to find a career that benefits from seeing these down-the-line impacts as I can incorporate them into client go-forward plans. Seeing what others cannot can be an amazing advantage. Wouldn’t it be great to see trends quicker than your competition? How about picking out the best time to address a topic with an employee because you can pick up on factors that will affect the conversation’s success? Or, wouldn’t it be great to be able to account for future people, process and system impacts stemming from decisions made today so you can avoid the inevitable potholes in your journey?

Sound interesting? So how do we develop this ability? I think it’s worth-while starting with a few simple premises and build from there.

  1. Observe – there is power in observation. Pay attention to those things that matter.
  2. Look for trends – if you look at all the details (and get overwhelmed in detail) or if you look at just the isolated details related to your topic (and have too little background), you will make the wrong decision. Instead look for the trend and meaning within your data and your observations.
  3. Ask questions – think about impacts. Almost every action or decision will have multiple impacts. What could they be? Be curious. Don’t accept actions at face value. Dig deeper. Learn about a broad spectrum of topics so you are aware of the possibilities.

Start with these simple premises, and you might start seeing what others cannot. The great news is that we can surpass the masses and the status quo by flexing these muscles. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Continually build on this ability – start by doing more listening and thinking than talking. As my consulting mentor says, “improve by 1% a day, and in 70 days you are twice as good”.

Undoubtedly, if you can see things others cannot, you’ll have the opportunity to leapfrog the competition.