We all spend time in life and at work observing other people.
The opportunities are broad; consider when you have observed:
- A demonstration by another to get something right yourself
- An interaction to listen and understand the ideas of others
- A presentation to be informed about a new subject
- The activity of others to monitor performance levels
- Interactions to understand the status and strength of relationships
All of us engage in noticing, watching or monitoring the people around us; however, these observations are often spontaneous and momentary rather than deliberate or prolonged. They are usually driven by our curiosity, uncertainty or a desire to increase our understanding of a person or situation, and most often occur in an informal way.
Our work in the field of management development has taught us that understanding how to use observation in a formal way is actually an excellent skill which all managers should isolate and hone.
At DCo, we know that giving managers a formal structure for undertaking observation as part of management development programmes enables them to hold more honest, objective conversations. Carrying out observations for a specific purpose requires managers to focus on the behaviours being demonstrated by others, and to monitor and record what they do and say in particular situations.
Formal observation is therefore a skill that allows managers to gather critical knowledge on others and is far more sophisticated a method of monitoring performance than most realise.
Formal observations have many uses, the most important of which involves enabling others. It supports managers with the critical skill of holding difficult conversations, it enables the clear identification of development needs and also supports effective performance levels by providing a foundation for coaching and knowledge transfer to occur.
The next time you think you need to improve your managers’ communication or people management skills, consider how what they observe is the first step in developing their confidence and capability.