What Are You Missing?

By: Nickie Harber-Frankart

I recently attended a daylong seminar on organizational leadership that focused on the complexities of relationships. I learned a lot, but there was one thing the instructor said that really stuck with me:

What you pay attention to determines what you miss*

It makes sense. We grind along at work habitually directing our attention to things we feel are important. As a result, we lose focus and fail to stay in touch with the people who matter most in our organizations: employees, customers, and other stakeholders. Take for example the leaders on the hit TV show Undercover Boss. Each episode is about a leader who tries to reconnect with people to figure out what’s happening in his or her organization.

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch has said, “Not recognizing that you are the last person to know what is going on” is the single most frequent mistake of a CEO.**

So how can you stay connected? Here are a few things to remember.

  • Listen. Probe for feedback often from everyone in your organization, including your employees and customers in formal and informal ways, using one-on-one interviews, focus groups, or surveys. Listen with sincerity and use results to better the organization.
  • Observe. Pay attention to behavior and nonverbal cues to help you learn what is important. You can take the Undercover Boss approach by observing your employees or customers in action, or analyzing other patterns in behavior through data. In addition, pay attention to reactions and gestures in meetings to gain insight.
  • Reflect. Take time to think about what’s important to others. Use knowledge from listening and observing to understand what makes people tick. Put yourself in other people’s shoes and recognize that we all want to do our best. This will help you focus on the positive.
  • Communicate. The quality and quantity of your communication matters. Engage followers and raise awareness through frequent communication. Set expectations and share your vision with employees. Make sure you also offer constructive feedback as often as you offer praise—this conveys attention and care.

Effective leaders consciously direct their attention toward others. They focus on caring for and meeting the needs of their employees and stakeholders (customers, shareholders, etc.) to drive organizational success.

We want to know how you stay focused. Leave us your comments below.

*Rob Abramovitz, Servant Leadership Seminar, Marylhurst University, June 2, 2012.
**Interview with Stuart Varney for the TV series CEO Exchange on PBS (2001).

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

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