Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work

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Want to be a hero at work? It’s about zippers and broccoli. It’s about Human Idiosyn-Crazies ™. It’s about something that was featured in the Harvard Business Review in the summer of 2014.

It’s called Noticing!

I define Noticing as “mindfulness with a smile.” Being aware of what’s around you. Opening your eyes and seeing what we often miss because we are so busy checking off to-do lists and items on our calendars. Head down. Nose in our phones. We miss a lot of what’s amazing and fascinating in our world.

Noticing is essential for leadership. That’s what HBR was saying. If you are not Noticing things, you can miss great new ideas or warning signs of a catastrophe.

Noticing is a key for communication and team-building, which brings us back to zippers and broccoli.

I believe that a zipper is an incredible invention. Simple. Satisfying – zip, zip! And it gets the job done. I call any simple invention that gets the job done, a “zipper.” Notice the “zippers!” Often they are such a part of our routine that we don’t Notice them. But if we did, we might think of other ways to use them, or we might gather our team together to come up with new “zippers.”

My corporate audiences have come up with tons of “zippers,” and many new uses for them. For example:

  • Minutes to a meeting, so the same stuff is not repeated time and again
  • An agenda, so everyone knows what to expect and can prepare
  • A consistent subject line for email so a conversation can be easily found
  • A template for a PowerPoint or a report so it is clear what should go in and the reader knows what to expect

You get the idea. There are tons of workplace “zippers.” Find new uses for them and come up with new ones, and you will be a hero at work.

Now think about that luscious green vegetable. Yes, I do think it is luscious! A head of broccoli is made up of smaller heads of broccoli and those are made up of even smaller heads of broccoli. Broccoli is a repeating pattern, a fractal. There are repeating patterns all over nature. Think about a tree branching out or a mountain range – these are repeating patterns. There are also repeating patterns in the way work gets done and in the way people behave.

I call repeating patterns, “broccoli.” Notice the workplace “broccoli” and you will have the basis for lots of communication and team-building exercises. What is some “broccoli” at work?

  • The office kitchen is always a mess
  • The same people speak at meetings and the same people are quiet
  • Where people sit in a meeting
  • How people speak – some people are always long-winded; others speak in short-hand
  • How the team accomplishes a project – are the same people always leading? Is one person always late with his input?

When we Notice a “broccoli,” we can either figure out how to replicate it, if it is good. Or we need to disrupt it, if it is bad.

To be a hero at work, Notice the “broccoli” and act on it.

Now we come to Human Idiosyn-Crazies. These are the endearingly dumb things we all do.

  • You may have one colleague who has an open door policy – just come right in anytime, as opposed to another colleague who requires an Outlook invitation for a 30 second, yes or no, question. Human Idiosyn-Crazies!
  • One colleague has a place for everything and everything is in its place; another has a total mess on the desk and empty file cabinets.But the messy colleague may very well know where everything is as well. Work styles are Human Idiosyn-Crazies.
  • How about the person who always shows up at meetings five minutes after they have started?

Now there are three choices when you Notice a Human Idiosyn-Crazy. The first choice is to laugh. Heck we all have them. We should definitely be laughing at ourselves. When a colleague displays a Human Idiosyn-Crazy we should be ready with a good-natured laugh. However, if you can’t muster that kind laugh up, the second choice is to just brush it off. It might not be the best way to do things, but you can be generous and allow for human differences. The third choice, though, is to confront the behavior; to discuss it with the other person and see if you can come up with solutions together.

Sometimes the third choice is necessary, but the kinder and more understanding you can be of others’ Human Idiosyn-Crazies, and the more open you are about your own, the closer you will be to becoming a hero at work.

You see, I have now established a new vocabulary that is memorable and that takes the edge off improvement exercises. Noticing “zippers,” “broccoli,” and Human Idiosyn-Crazies can be very effective for improved communications, for team building, and of course, is essential for leadership.

So Notice what you see and be a hero at work!

Margery Leveen Sher is the author of The Noticer’s Guide to Living and Laughing: Change Your Life Without Changing Your Routine.

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