No one wants to be ignorant — but on our quest to be knowledgeable we can instead obsess over the wrong petty details. In this week’s Business Success column, consultant Leslie Unger advises on how to avoid OCD.
Be Observant . . . Not Obsessed
Recently an FBI agent was asked, “What makes someone an effective profiler?”
The answer was surprisingly simple: to be an effective profiler is simply to be an observant person.
In business, as a leader or owner, the challenge I have found is to be observant — and not obsessed.
On the continuum of observance, there is obsessed with the details on one end, and clueless to details on the other. In your daily professional life, your goal is to be healthily observant.
In order to protect your value, it is incumbent upon you to be observant to what those around you do, and what those around you do not do when opportunity knocks. If you pay attention to the little messages, then a big message (such as whether you are hired or fired!) will not come as a surprise.
Paul was on senior staff on his way to a C-level position when Al was hired in a position slightly above him on the organizational chart. Al brought with him several members from his former company. Once a rising star, Paul wondered what this meant to his future at this company.
“Be observant but not obsessed,” I counseled him. In communication there is a saying that when what one says contradicts with what one does, go with what one does. You have to observe what goes on around you so you have the pieces to construct the big picture. Then you need to hold up each piece as you do with a jigsaw puzzle, and see where it fits and what it means to whole scenario.
Tim is a school superintendent. He was waiting for a second contract to be offered by his school board when the Board president forgot their appointment. Was it simply a missed appointment? Or was there more to a second contract than the current superintendent was aware?
“Be observant but not obsessed,” I counseled him. As in other aspects of communication the answer is simple. Simple though not easy. As appealing as it may be to live in a bubble, none of us can afford the price of isolation. We need to be observant without becoming obsessive.
How to Observe
First, be observant of the verbal, vocal and visual signs of those around you — and be observant in the moment.
Second, embrace uncertainty. You do not have to know why your observation is important or what it means to the big picture. You want to look at observations like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. By themselves, most pieces will not finish the puzzle. When you put the pieces together, at some point you have an ah-ha moment and see the bigger picture.
Third, be as non-judgmental as possible in collecting information. Observations are not good or bad. Observations are not quality or poor. It is not possible to know the value of most observations at the time you make the observation. The challenge is to make them and keep them — and not be obsessed with them!
The experts say that moderation is key . . . to chocolate, exercise and life. The same maxim is true of observations. To not read the tea leaves could be detrimental to your forward movement. To be obsessed with every observation will surely stall you and your forward progress. The answer to chocolate and life is to be observant without being obsessed.
Leslie G. Ungar of Electric Impulse Communications is a coach, speaker, and speechwriter. Her blog is leadersneedtospeak.com; email is Leslie@electricimpulse.com.