Noticing: An Elusive Leadership Skill

Noticing“Leaders often fail to notice when they are obsessed by other issues, when they are motivated to not notice, and when there are other people in their environment working hard to keep them from noticing. ~ Harvard Business School Professor Max Bazerman,  The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See (Simon & Schuster, 2014)

As a leader, you’re responsible for making key decisions each day. But how confident are you in your ability to notice all pertinent information?

If you’re like most leaders, you probably believe your perception skills are keen. As convinced as you may be, it’s possible that you’re overestimating your aptitude. What’s in front of you is rarely all there is.

Even if you have a superior grasp of common blind spots, you must remain alert for unplanned surprises and acknowledge your cognitive biases. Even the most venerated leaders make egregious mistakes, failing to notice—or even ignoring—essential data. As they handle an emerging crisis, they may ask: “How did this happen?” or “Why didn’t I catch this sooner?”

They should really be asking themselves:

  • “What information should I have gathered, beyond the basic facts?”
  • “What information would have helped inform my decision?”

Imagine your advantage in negotiations, decision-making and overall leadership if you could teach yourself to spot and evaluate information others routinely overlook.

More than a decade of research shows that successful leaders take no notice of critical, readily available information in their environment. This often happens when they have blinders on, focusing on limited information they’ve predetermined to be necessary to make good decisions.

This article examines the skill of noticing and suggests questions leaders should ask themselves to develop their perception skills, avoid blind spots, and make better business decisions.

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The complete article includes these important concepts:

  • What YouTube Can Teach Us
  • The Rule of WYSINATI
  • The Problems with Auditors and Board Oversight
  • Lessons from LIBOR
  • Unintentional Blindness
  • Faulty Attribution
  • How to Develop Better Noticing Skills

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