This week I had the opportunity to drive across numerous states, and landscapes . . . the rolling green Flint Hills of Kansas, the rocky barren beauty of rural New Mexico and the lush desert landscapes of Arizona (who knew there were purple cacti?). The ever-changing scenery stood out because it had been a number of years since I last traveled through this part of the country (and then it was with a young family in a mini van, so it is likely I missed a thing or two). As a result, I noticed details of the landscape that I imagine those who travel the same road every day probably don’t see any more. I also thought about how someone from Oklahoma might be taken aback by the sheer greenness, and peaceful river bluffs that I sometimes take for granted in the place I call home.
The same thing can happen in our own organizations. There are undoubtedly some pretty amazing things taking place right under your nose . . . a grounds keeper who takes personal pride in keeping the place looking its best . . . a caseworker who buys a pizza for a family and takes the time to really build a relationship with them . . . a teacher who continually finds creative ways to engage a struggling student. Do you notice them? Or have they simply become part of the background you pass on your way to the next meeting?
And what about those things that perhaps don’t cast your organization in the best light? Do you see the peeling paint, or hear the frustration in the voice of a supervisor who is trying to reason with a difficult client? Do you see the resignation on the face of a staff member who feels like, once again, no one is listening? You might not notice, but it’s a pretty safe bet that someone who is experiencing your organization for the first time will see those things, and so much more.
Part of a leader’s job is to be a noticer . . . to identify and recognize those positive details, and not so positive, with the eyes of a visitor or potential customer. A noticer doesn’t generically say “You did a great job,” but, “Thanks so much for your patience. Your approach really diffused what could have been a very difficult situation.” A noticer doesn’t say “You need to improve your attitude”, but rather, “You appear to see things differently. Help me understand the situation from your perspective.” It’s the little things that can make all the difference in how someone experiences you organization. Do you see them?
My challenge to you today is to be a noticer. Walk through the day with the eyes of a visitor. Identify at least three things that would likely stand out to a guest . . . Do staff greet others when they walk past, or seem to not even see them? Are people given individualized responses or a recitation from the rule book? Is your front entry way warm and inviting or cold and cluttered? Then ask yourself, are these the things you want someone else to notice about your organization?
The best part is, once you as the leader become more of a noticer, the rest of your staff will likely follow suit. If a staff member sees you noticing the candy wrapper on the ground and picking it up, the more likely they will be to notice and dispose of trash in the future. If others observe you asking the opinion of front line staff, they will be more apt to do the same in the next situation. When you recognize someone who has gone the extra mile, it encourages their colleagues to put in extra effort because they have noticed it is valued.
Lead with the eyes of a noticer . . . you just might be amazed at the view.