Many people believe others can’t read them. Unfortunately, that belief is more often than not false.
We see right through and smell it when something is wrong.
This week I was watching a debate between politicians. We have elections coming up in the Netherlands, so it’s debate time.
One politician, Wopke, was visibly nervous.
All eyes were on him for a few reasons.
These are his first elections as the political leader of his party.
But he was not the preferred candidate. The preferred candidate withdrew. Too busy with Covid-19.
Also, Wopke had recently made a mistake ignoring the pandemic restrictions. And he was even public about it.
Invited by a sponsor, he went skating on an ice rink closed for the public due to Covid-19, and then posted a picture of his wonderful time on Instagram.
Did not go very well.
You can imagine.
Everyone could imagine.
Except for Wopke when he made the decision (I’m sorry, that’s his name. His parents never thought he would become a well-known politician).
After a huge backlash, Wopke apologized.
Now Wopke could not afford another blunder.
Therefore, Wopke had prepared himself well for the TV debate. He knew his stuff by heart.
The problem was that while he was speaking, you could just see he was talking from his brain.
You were not watching him speak; you could literally see through him into his brain as he presented his prepared remarks.
Wopke spoke on autopilot.
In business, this stuff happens all the time.
If you just pay a little attention, you can smell from a mile away what’s going on.
You can smell whether a leader is nervous.
You can smell whether a presenter is prepared.
You can smell whether a team is comfortable.
You can smell fear, inauthenticity, stress, engagement, performance, focus, fun, care, passion, purpose, honesty, lies, ego, arrogance, humility, shame; you name it.
The only thing you have to do is watch (the smell part is a slight exaggeration for the purpose of the story).
Sit down, relax, pause your thinking from whatever is going on at the moment, and watch.
Watch your leader interact with her (or his) team.
Watch a team working together.
Watch two people having a conversation with each other.
Switch off the sound of your TV and watch a debate without the words.
You’ll be amazed by what you notice.
Like a new world is opening up to you.
Time for a little bragging before I get to my point. Which, I hope, you can see coming.
I’m pretty good at this stuff, I mean observing what’s happening.
At least, that’s what I’m often getting as feedback when people work with me.
“Erikjan understands leaders and teams. He “hears” the unsaid and reads between the lines.”
Nice compliment. Just one of my testimonials.
To be honest, I don’t have the feeling that I have some magic powers.
I just watch.
And I try my hardest to take my own opinions out of the equation, which is the hard part.
I’m not flawless. Which the people close to me often remind me of.
I believe most people can ‘hear the unsaid’ and ‘read between the lines.’
They just don’t make the time to watch what’s happening.
And even when they do, they let their own opinions, ego, lack of trust, or fear take over.
What would happen if you suspend judgment and park your ego?
What will you notice?
Do you notice when your team is not responding to you?
Do you notice when nobody has any questions for you?
Do you notice when people look away when you’re trying to engage?
Do you start talking when you don’t have an answer?
Do you make yourself vulnerable when you’re nervous?
Here’s my point…
(Team) work can be so much better.
When you pay attention to the signals that are all around you.
Once you notice the signals, make them available for discussion.
True discussion. Not a fake dialogue that’s really just a monologue.
You may not hear what you like. But that’s why you’re a leader.
Long term, you will benefit.
As far as Wopke is concerned. He needs a better coach.
Your turn: what will you notice when you start paying attention?
Do more of what makes you happy.