The research has shown it takes practice to be a better observer. For performance improvement purposes, you will be observing other people work, so how much do you need to know what their job entails for you to be effective at coaching and reinforcing behaviors? Good news: some authors believe you can improve your skill simply by doing something different, because you are more in the moment and this increases your awareness. With this logic the more you watch the tree, the less you’re looking at the forest. If you are quite familiar with the work the employees are performing, you may have to work harder at being critical.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to think like Sherlock Holmes?
1. Pay attention
2. Slow down
3. Take notes
5. Use critical thinking to analyze what you see or read
6. Form or deduce connections between thing you have observed
7. Increase your knowledge in an area you plan to observe
Now grab yourself a pen, some paper, and a “Watson” (as needed for peer checks) and you’re ready to observe!
Train like an Army Ranger Sniper by using the KIMS game approach
Click here for some basic training involving note-taking – check out all the external links on this site in the “You May Like” section
Check out this “Psychology Today” magazine article submitted by Joe Navarro who is a former FBI Special Agent
Click here for Traits of Effective Observers
Does it matter how you look at things? Yes it does. Consider this link
Observation activity in Jennie Ayers‘ coaching class through KC-ASTD
Framed as a listening activity; in the next three minutes pair up with someone in the class and find out something about them you don’t already know. After the three minutes, have them all stand back to back with their partner and answer these questions: What seemed odd about the person? What was the main color of their shirt? What jewelry were they wearing? What kind/color of shoes were they wearing? Did they have glasses or facial hair?
The lesson here is that some of us are already good at remembering details of what we see and hear, but most of us are only in tune with what we hear. A good observer will be able to take the entire person and situation in, not just what is being said. Also, during a conversation, the mind tends to get bored by simply listening to the words coming out of someone’s mouth, so the mind finds something to do; usually developing a reply, which disengages it from some of the inputs.
The mind is a funny thing when it comes to overload or boredom from inputs – I will post more on this in a future post on inattention blindness, but for now I’ll ask you this question: For any reason have you ever turned the radio down when you got into heavy traffic?
Observation activity from my Leadership Observation training
Towards the end of the class, I play a video that has 3 clips (I call it the “Expert test”). After each short vignette, 5 questions rapidly come onto the screen for the students to answer about what they just saw. The following list are lessons I’ve learned over the least three years:
1. People score badly when they have a sense of being entertained by what they are watching – these people need extra coaching to be better observers. If you are observing, you are not there to be entertained, but to reinforce desired behaviors, and coach any at-risk or behaviors not meeting expectations.
2. When people write notes down (it is encouraged) they do much better when they strike a balance between watching and jotting some notes down – the students have no idea what they questions are going to be like (and they are open ended, not true/false or multiple choice)
3. On average, Nuclear Reactor Operator Leadership are pretty good at this test with scores typically about 10/15, where the average leadership team members are around 7/15. Did I mention the test is pretty difficult?