What Do You Notice?

An article I was reading recently in Writer’s Digest magazine had a great suggestion for sharpening your writing skills. In essence, it said to train your eye to notice things and then write about them. It suggested that at odd moments throughout your day – in public transit on your way to work or at a restaurant during lunch – notice and jot down your observations – snatches of conversations you may overhear, gestures or expressions you notice on other people – then write a few sentences about these observations. The purpose is to deepen your awareness and keep you focused. 

The passage caught my attention not just because it was an easy and effective exercise, but because it reminded me of a book I’d just read in my book club, The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing, by Margery Leveen Sher. She wrote a whole book about the amazing things she notices – things about nature, the seasons, the city, art, books. You name it, she’s noticed it. In a world where everyone seems to be staring at their phones, it was refreshing to read about someone who took the time to look up, down and all around. 

When people become too self-absorbed and don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them, they can miss great opportunities. It reminds me of an encounter that I had over breakfast one morning at a small neighborhood café. It was crowded and the space was tight. We ended up sharing a table with another couple and struck up a conversation. Someone else couldn’t help overhearing us and it turned out she had a possible job opportunity for the woman in the other party. A connection was made because someone was listening and paying attention.

Ideas and opportunities arise when you least expect it, but you’ve got to notice them.

  • Do you pay attention to the action around you?
  • Do you listen to the stories people are telling?
  • Do you listen to ideas from people throughout the organization?

Pay attention to how ideas flow in your organization. Do they flow freely? More importantly, do team member have the freedom to either act on good ideas or at least bring them forward? If communication channels are rigidly defined, you may be stifling creativity and productivity.

I've been in organizations and heard of situations where directors only talk to directors and if you’re not at that level, you cannot pass an idea up (or worse answer a question or provide information) to a person at a "higher level".  I once served on an industry/government task force.  A good idea had been presented and I asked if it could be taken back to the appropriate agency.  "That's above my pay grade" was the response I got.

You gain a great deal if you encourage open communication channels. How you communicate reveals much about your culture.  Open communication leads to problem solving, creativity and innovation and it will keep your team members motivated, engaged, and in your employ.  

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