Sit Still and Observe

At the core of my view on leadership is movement and I speak to it in other posts. Today though I ask you to sit still and observe.

In your organization what is happening around you at any given moment? Where is the staff – quiet in their workspace, grouped together in the hallway, or talking with co-workers one on one? As a leader your power to stop and observe the people and activity around you can serve you well to understand and take proper action.

Your ability to treat the familiar as unfamiliar will serve you well.

My thinking here was born from my studies as an Anthropologist. The ability to observe, document and understand group behavior is at the core of what a cultural anthropologist does. Imagine standing in a corner with a good view of your workspace. Stay there for a while and make mental notes of what you observe. You can learn much from this approach. Of course, standing for a period of time may come off as odd, so do the same as you move about the office. Focus on what is going on around you and understand that everything has meaning. With your anthropological approach to observation, you see the parts and work to pull them together to understand the whole. This holistic view from anthropology serves the modern leader to understand and take action.

I recently visited a very large company and ate lunch in its cafateria. For me it was a foreign land and I could have stayed there for hours sitting at a table and just observing the employees around me. You can learn a great deal about the culture from watching these employees in how they dress; how they sit and converse with each other. Try to point out who the big bosses are at the tables (good luck).

The power of observation is not just for group behavior. It serves to help with process improvement too. From my experience it helps to get away from the conference room where we typically discuss process improvement and walk into the workplace and just observe the flow, direction and interplay along the route a business process takes.

As a leader you need to be interested in group behavior and tap into the approach and toolbox used by an anthropologist. The ability to sit and observe the movement around you and effectively interpret and take action as a leader is part of We Move Together.

4 thoughts on “Sit Still and Observe

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