The Importance of an External Perspective in Business

By: Laura Lofthouse, Senior Vice President, Media Delivery Team, Valassis
Published Tuesday, Jun 27, 2017



The Importance of an External Perspective in Business

Happy anniversary… 30 years at one company! While some would say that is unheard of in today’s norm of multiple jobs, and even multiple careers, some of us still remain.  

As a leader and long-tenured associate, one can easily get trapped in the day-to-day operations of the business. The focus, while well intended, is on internal happenings. How do we continue to grow revenue? How do we become more efficient? Are my team members being adequately trained and developed? How do we meet the ever-changing needs of our clients? These vital demands can be all-consuming. Does this sound familiar?

Even with so many years under my belt, I recently had an “a-ha” moment. I recognized that despite my passion, commitment and loyalty to my team and our company, I need to put renewed focus on gaining and maintaining an external perspective. While completing an external scan exercise to assist with defining our division’s strategic plan, I experienced the importance of not only remaining aligned with our company’s vision, but also understanding best practices and changes in our industry, with our competitors, and in the world beyond our front doors.

It only takes a few minutes a day to take off the blinders, lift your head out of the sand and see what’s going on around you. So how do we take the right steps to make sure we build and maintain this perspective?

Identify ‘quick hit’ resources

There is an abundance of knowledge at our fingertips. In today’s information age, it’s easy to identify meaningful sources that can be quickly scanned for relevance. Information may come from an impactful “Tweeter,” an insightful LinkedIn blogger, or an expert in your particular industry. Regardless, it’s imperative to stay current on the periodicals to which you subscribe, not letting them gather dust on your credenza. Listen to the news during your commute. Each day, commit to spending 10 minutes gathering just one piece of external insight and you’ll be ahead of the game. 

Tap into your full network

In addition to these “quick hit” learnings, your network is also full of potential knowledge. Attend professional affiliation luncheons, take advantage of that local college course and the experience of the people who are attending or see what is trending on YouTube. Tap into the friends you are hosting for dinner on Saturday night or sitting next to at your child’s soccer game. Chances are these acquaintances know something that is applicable and transferrable to your industry. Are you a “Facebooker?”  If so, dig beyond the surface to find meaningful nuggets. When your friend posts that he just attended a fantastic conference in Dallas, understand the topic, what he learned and how it might relate to you and your business. 

Understand the benefits

While it is beneficial to keep an external focus, the true significance comes from taking what you have read or learned and asking yourself… so what? How will this impact me, my team and our company? What are the potential short- and long-term implications? To have a balanced perspective, ask yourself these questions through various lenses. Are there economic, political, technological or even social implications? At least once a year, make a concerted effort to complete a thorough external analysis – a deep dive into the world around you to augment strategic planning efforts. I think you will find the output will be more robust and thoughtful.

The advantages of an external focus are numerous, particularly if you have lengthy tenure. External perspective fosters proactive versus reactive decisions. It leads to innovation and idea generation that may positively influence the future of your team and organization. It ensures ongoing relevance, and on a personal level, builds credibility.

Whether you have been with your company for 30 years, 30 weeks or 30 days, it only takes a few minutes each day to learn from all that is happening around you and provide valuable insight to your company.