Recognition Worth Noticing
As a writer, educator, and lover of learning and life, I make it a habit to notice people. Whether I am in the classroom or in a business, I notice everyone I meet, and I let him or her know it.
No one interacts with me for more than 15 seconds without being asked for a name. I don’t need the trained eye of a detective to notice that a custodian is whistling happily while cleaning, or that a receptionist has a particularly melodious voice, or that the person I’m meeting with seems harried, and I comment genuinely in each case.
My most faithful companion is my writer’s notebook. I jot down observations about the people I meet and the incredible lessons I learn from them. Importantly, I then share these observations with them, and let them know I appreciate what they said or did, or the way they said it or did it, and how important it was to our work together.
This practice started when I taught in an elementary school classroom. If I failed to notice that a student had her bangs cut or had lost a tooth or gotten a new pair of sneakers, they would not engage with me until I did. On the other hand, if I whispered to a student that I noticed she was working hard and making progress with her reading, her confidence rocketed for weeks. Unfortunately, as students advance to higher grades, they are noticed less, unless they misbehave. It’s no wonder that so many of them do.
Kids are not the only ones who struggle and strive to be noticed. Adults spend a lot of time trying to get noticed as well. There is a real-time counter on the web that shows the number of new posts, likes, comments, and updates posted every second. Look at it for five seconds. What are all these Internet users seeking? They are trying to be noticed. The web is not a data stream. The web is a life stream. The significance of our lives is dependent on how other people see us.
What are all these Internet users seeking? They are trying to be noticed. The web is not a data stream. The web is a life stream.
Whatever our vocation, everyone single one of us has a chance to tell people:
“Your cheeriness sets a tone for the whole office.”
“Thank you for the way you handled that matter.”
“I appreciate the effort you’ve been putting in the past few weeks.”
“I’m sorry for the trouble you’ve been going through.”
I know what some of you are thinking:
“People are paid to do their job. If they do it well, they get a raise, and if they don’t, they get cut loose. I’m not here to play therapist and make them feel good about doing the job they’re paid to do.”
How’s that working out for you?
What if you carried a notebook? What if you made it a point to make note of what you notice? How indispensable it was, how genius it was, how significant it was?
To put it in stark business terms, how much would it cost you to notice someone and share your appreciation? How much time would it take out of your day? I will tell you what I know for sure, after 25 years of noticing diligently: it changes people. It can change an entire culture.
Start with your family and other loves ones. Extend it to your workplace. Next, try it with every single person you interact with – or could interact with, if you lifted your nose out of your phone.
After 25 years of noticing diligently: it changes people. It can change an entire culture.
Learn from my friend Tim McDonald, who noticed a homeless man that he passes on the way to work each day, and learned a valuable leadership lesson.
Use your eyes. Use your ears. Use all your senses. Notice people. Tell them what you noticed. Let them know how essential they are. Make sure they know they matter. Watch how it changes others. Cherish how it changes you.
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