Superpower #7: Observing and Reporting From the Basement to the Balcony View

Superpower #6 was about developing a niche. However, there are nuances that must be clarified, because it’s very easy to cross the line into an area that make the populace (i.e., the customer or constituent base — in other words, the people who keep the business afloat) say ‘Ew!’ in a very loud voice.

Netflix recently showed a documentary called ‘White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch’. Here is one of the comments in the article linked here that stands out:

“You can actually see concretely not just how [the company’s exclusionary plan and presentation] hurts people [in the film], but how it’s been implemented and weaponized against them.” (para. 4)

One of the comments from the documentary that hits at the core of the problem is that the company highlights ‘the worst parts of American history … everything we want America not to be.’ (1:20:00)

There is the rub of the niche — when a company or organization sets itself up in a way that is opposite the way it should be. Instead of creating a unique brand or process that could be attractive to any customer or constituent, they exclude internal and external customers and constituents alike.

R-Leaders help their companies avoid such challenges by taking a basement to balcony view of the organization and its plans. To describe this view, let’s use the example of a multi-floor house: picture a home with a basement or lower level, a main floor, and a balcony.

The Basement

The basement is the floor that includes usable space but is underground. This underground area might have exercise equipment, a playroom for the children, musical equipment, or serve as a family room with computers for games or a large television for movie night. The laundry room might be down there too, or the pet area. For whatever reason, this is a work space, no matter how good it looks. We might invite the boss over and serve drinks and snacks in the front room, or formal dining room, but we don’t take the boss to the basement because our teenager is playing World of Warcraft down there in pajamas and it’s four in the afternoon. Plus, the dog is eating and sloshing water from the water bowl and there’s an overflowing dirty clothes hamper to be attended to.

The basement view that the R-Leader is looking at is where the physical and intellectual grind happens. It includes the areas that don’t always get a spotlight shined on them. Think the IT department, the administrative and executive assistant pool, the business office, the maintenance crew — the people and places where many of the processes move along after decision-making (more on that in a moment).

The Main Floor

If we continue with the floors of the house motif, we next come to the main floor. Here is the front room, kitchen, and dining room. It’s what most people see. When the neighbors pop by for conversation on a nice summer evening, we might invite them into the front room, or sit at the dining room table or bar stools next to the kitchen counter for a lemonade and a chat.

In business, the R-Leader might view the main floor as the lobby, where it’s most common to find customer-facing team members and managers, for example. It is the part of the company that is most visible to the most people. It’s where the processes from the basement are put into action for all to see.

The Balcony

A balcony on a house is typically like a porch, but it’s up high. Some balconies have stairs, where people could walk up from the outside. Others are private and only accessible from a master bedroom or other second (or higher) floor area.

The balcony might represent the R-Leader’s executive suite or private office, where strategic forecasting happens. It is a space that not everyone can see and where the final answer comes from. Those processes that began in the basement are often the result of decisions that were confirmed on the balcony before making it into action on the main floor.

How does a Basement to Balcony View Work?

R-Leaders who are respectful provocateurs and advance creatively the commitment to growth through channels of open communication that help bring joy to their organizations as they build that business niche are well aware of the ‘floors of their house.’

While the R-Leader might feel at times stuck on the balcony as they (and the other members of the executive team if there are any — like board members, CFO’s, COO’s, or others that meet the ‘C-Suite’ description) make decisions, they know people are in the basement ensuring there are processes in place and that others on the main floor are working hard to action the decisions and processes.

R-Leaders, in their desire for open communication, will always find a way to incorporate voices from all the floors of the house. They do it by going to those areas — to the people at the various levels of the organization — and by having an open door through which their colleagues at all levels can come to meet, share, and give feedback.

R-Leaders may make the decisions, but when they report out, they incorporate viewpoints from basement to balcony.

Doing so ensures a cycle of continuity that keeps a flow of innovation and helps R-Leaders identify opportunities for improvement.

If you need help as you ‘map your house’ and identify the various viewpoints, let’s get in touch.

Published by AR Neal

Dr. Andree Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug in the 1970s and despite a career in education has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. You can sometimes find her at https://agnubloom.com, where she writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully be discovered and have a bunch of her work republished in multiple languages and turned into stage and screenplays. She also writes under the pen name Hou-Rhyder. Find those words at https://hou-rhyder.com. She is a practitioner and the developer of Reconnoiter Leadership. Learn more at https://r-leadership.com.

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