I like to think of myself as a fairly observant person. Whether that’s the details in the way someone dresses, their body language in an interaction, or the general surroundings, I enjoy the finer details on what’s going on around me. 

Having good observation skills wasn’t just a fun hobby. Those skills served me very well as an operational leader for a large company and in the consulting that I’ve done over the years. 

Honing in your observation skills can bring your business, team, and personal career to the next level. 

Slow down

As with any other skill that you are looking to learn or upgrade, you’ve got to start slow. Slow down your walking speed, talking speed, and even your drive time to give yourself a chance to soak in the details of your surroundings. 

As you slow down, look around more with purpose. What do you see that you hadn’t noticed before? What subtle signs are your co-workers giving you in their nonverbals? What needs attention around the office (or home) that you hadn’t seen before?

As you get better at this skill, you can do it with a degree of speed, but slowing down will always help you. 

Become a people watcher

Pre-COVID, this was one of my favorite things to do at restaurants, outdoor events, or just out and about with others. Growing your observation skills of people will help you pick out the nuances of what people are doing around you or how they are communicating in ways that they don’t even realize.  

Some common things to look for:

  • How are they dressed? 
  • What mannerisms do they have? Any quirks?
  • How do they carry themselves? You can make an assessment of their own level of care and attention to detail by the effort they put into themselves. 
  • How formal or informal are they when they interact with others?
  • Do they act differently around certain people?
  • What their typical energy level? This can help you get an early gauge of a problem when you see this change. 

Make a game of it in your personal outings

I used to hate grocery shopping, but during the pandemic, it was my only real time to be around people. I began to look forward to it every week because it gave me a chance to get out a keep my observation skills sharp. 

Who is wearing a mask? What type of mask are they wearing? Who was going the wrong way down the aisle? What were people buying? How are people interacting with others? What did the store look like? Was there a theme on what was sold out? What were the employees doing?

As my wife and I would come out of the store we would sometimes quiz each other, “Did you notice…..”  There has always been something for us to talk about when we were observant enough to pick up on all the details around us. 

The benefits

Strengthening your observation skills can provide you with several benefits that impact your team, your career, and your business. 

  • The details of your business that faces a customer/client will always stay fresh, crips, and updated. Just as you can become nose-blind to things, you can be blinded to details in an environment that you are constantly in. 
  • You will begin to pick up on co-worker and employee issues earlier and will have a chance to address them before they escalate. 
  • The details in your personal work will increase and raise the overall quality and value of your output. 
  • Being more observant about others will help you learn (and affirm) the behaviors that you want when you interact with others. 

Stay observant and the opportunities to stand out from the crowd will begin to make themselves apparent to you. 

Make a better tomorrow.