For the last several years, the trend of selecting a “word for the year” has been rising in popularity. Some examples of these words include “Limitless”, “Intentional”, “Create”, and “Forward”. The idea is that your word of choice clarifies your intent, intensifies your focus, and serves as a catalyst for action.  

For 2019 I decided I would give this a try. After much contemplation, I chose what I am guessing is a fairly uncommon word for this purpose – “Notice”.

One definition of Notice is, “the fact of observing or paying attention to something.” Another one is “to treat someone with a degree of attention or recognition.” It’s essentially having a heightened awareness of the people and things around you. In short, noticing is powerful and important.

According to Professor John Stilgoe of Harvard, the power of acute observation is one of nature’s most useful tools for learning. When we notice, whether it is within or outside of the work environment, we learn. Noticing can illuminate blind spots and lead to new ideas. Additionally, it can broaden or change our perspective.

Think about your work environment. When was the last time you took a walk through your organization with a truly inquisitive, open mind and the intention of noticing? For example, have you:  

  • Looked at the work environment from the perspective of each employee working within it? 
  • Visited with people in each area or department to see and listen to what they experience daily?
  • Visited your client or customers on-site, observing and learning about their operations without assumption?  

Now think about the world outside of work. What is the most remarkable thing you saw the last time you were driving or walking around? When was the last time you studied a photograph or piece of art and discussed it with someone else? What have you noticed most about your family interactions recently, or their interactions with one another?

With the many distractions present in today’s fast-paced environment, we as leaders and managers are at risk of failing to notice what we should, when we should. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can practice taking notice. Easy ways to do this include:

  1. Intentionally leaving our devices and screens behind us, walking into a new or different space, and keenly observing our surroundings.  
  2. Slowing down our own processes or routines and reconsidering each step to notice what can be done differently, more effectively, or by someone else.  
  3. Observing team interactions, specifically looking for demonstrated talents to notice the strengths of your team, then sharing your observations and positive reinforcement with the team.
  4. Noticing individuals you’re trying to communicate with by paying attention not just what they are saying, but also by listening to their feelings and emotions.   
  5. Being aware of how much time you are spending being physically, mentally, and emotionally present with the people around you.

To practice the act of noticing more effectively, purposely interrupt your normal behavior and challenge yourself to do something different. The above steps include simple ways to start.  

Become a stronger leader by taking more notice in 2019. You might be surprised by what you see.