Be intentionally observant.

In 1931 Nicholas Murray Butler, the President of Columbia University in New York delivered a speech on Charter Day at the University of California. He was quoted as saying:

The vast population of this earth, and indeed nations themselves, may readily be divided into three groups. There are the few who make things happen, the many more who watch things happen, and the overwhelming majority who have no notion of what happened.

Each day we’re surrounded by countless activity that we remain mostly oblivious to.

In the late nineties there was a selective attention test conducted by Simons & Chabris (1999) that required you to count the number of times a basketball was passed between players . If you haven’t tried you it can watch it HERE. If you don’t want a spoiler then watch the video before you read on.

Take the test the first time and chances are good that you missed the gorilla. Take it again and there’s no way you can miss it.

You will find what you’re looking for. We can pick up on the things when we’re intentionally observant. The impact of this can be both positive and negative. If you’re intentionally looking for someone else’s flaws, trust me you will find them. At the same time, if you’re intentionally looking for the best in others, you’ll find those too.

Leading well under a leader means watching how they lead. It means being intentionally observant.

Intentionally observant leaders:

  1. Pick up on Priorities
    • They notice what a leader is talking about.
    • This helps them to better understand what is most important to the leader.
  2. Pick up on Palette
    • They notice how a leader is talking about.
    • This helps them to frame and communicate decisions in a way that’s best aligned with that leader.
  3. Pick up on People
    • They notice who a leader is talking about.
    • This helps them know who else they might need to be intentionally observing.

A question to reflect on:
“What or who is my leader regularly talking about and in what way?”