Just Notice

A big part of a leader`s ability to create and sustain great relationships in the workplace have to do with their ability to “just notice” other`s reactions. Jane Dutton from the University of Michigan has academically termed this “relational attentiveness” in her wonderful book, Energize Your Workplace.

Leaders who are attuned to the behavior and emotional states of those around them can make the adjustments necessary to revive an organization whose energy is low and needs some reviving to increase its effectiveness. Sagging spirits are an all-to-frequent occurance in today’s workplace.

Yet we are moving so fast, we don`t take the time to notice as we should. Look around. Are the people in your workplace connecting with each other? Are they energetic, enthusiastically diving into the challenges provide? Do they eagerly await the success they will have with new learning opportunities and stretch assignments? If not, you may have some work to do.

My experience

One of the best workplace experiences I had in my budding Human Resources career was in a role as a specialist in Corporate Compensation. This could be pretty bland (and sometimes, honestly, demoralizing) work, “sore-thumbing” job descriptions and determining the wages and bonuses of corporate officers who pocketed Christmas bonuses that were equal to many times my annual salary. (I remember someone asking me what I did in that job. I was ?€“ unusually ?€“ at a loss for words to describe it).

The manager of this business unit (perhaps a bit bored himself) would often rally the troops when our spirits sagged by encouraging some fun or arranging for us to go out to lunch. He was also a bit of a jokester himself, who allowed us to tease him, and play along, about his own failings. It allowed us to re-energize on a personal level with ourselves and with him.

The gift

This manager`s real gift was the ability to “just notice” when we needed to step out of our routine and enjoy the company of one another. He might be surprised to know that this is how I remember him and what I enjoyed ?€“ and learned ?€“ from his leadership.

His ability to react ?€“ and lead us beyond ?€“ our sagging spirits is a lesson for all leaders to “just notice”. Keep an open mind and heart in your workplace. Just notice when the energy of your team is low and requires your light touch to lift it up. Lead others with that lift and enjoy the energy it provides to you and your team!

What have you done to lift others when spirits sag?

Next week I’ll begin a new weekly feature at this site called “Thoughtful Thursday” where I will simply ask a few good old fashioned open-ended questions to make you reflect. No answers, just questions. You can choose to respond to the questions on this site – or just ponder. I’m looking forward to it.


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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.

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Just Notice


A big part of a leader’s ability to create and sustain great relationships in the workplace have to do with their ability to “just notice” other’s reactions. Jane Dutton from the University of Michigan has academically termed this “relational attentiveness” in her wonderful book, Energize Your Workplace.

Leaders who are attuned to the behavior and emotional states of those around them can make the adjustments necessary to revive an organization whose energy is low and needs some reviving to increase its effectiveness. Sagging spirits are an all-to-frequent occurance in today’s workplace.

Yet we are moving so fast, we don’t take the time to notice as we should. Look around. Are the people in your workplace connecting with each other? Are they energetic, enthusiastically diving into the challenges provide? Do they eagerly await the success they will have with new learning opportunities and stretch assignments? If not, you may have some work to do.

My experience

One of the best workplace experiences I had in my budding Human Resources career was in a role as a specialist in Corporate Compensation. This could be pretty bland (and sometimes, honestly, demoralizing) work, “sore-thumbing” job descriptions and determining the wages and bonuses of corporate officers who pocketed Christmas bonuses that were equal to many times my annual salary. (I remember someone asking me what I did in that job. I was – unusually – at a loss for words to describe it).

The manager of this business unit (perhaps a bit bored himself) would often rally the troops when our spirits sagged by encouraging some fun or arranging for us to go out to lunch. He was also a bit of a jokester himself, who allowed us to tease him, and play along, about his own failings. It allowed us to re-energize on a personal level with ourselves and with him.

The gift

This manager’s real gift was the ability to “just notice” when we needed to step out of our routine and enjoy the company of one another. He might be surprised to know that this is how I remember him and what I enjoyed – and learned – from his leadership.

His ability to react – and lead us beyond – our sagging spirits is a lesson for all leaders to “just notice”. Keep an open mind and heart in your workplace. Just notice when the energy of your team is low and requires your light touch to lift it up. Lead others with that lift and enjoy the energy it provides to you and your team!

What have you done to lift others when spirits sag?

Next week I’ll begin a new weekly feature at this site called “Thoughtful Thursday” where I will simply ask a few good old fashioned open-ended questions to make you reflect.  No answers, just questions. You can choose to respond to the questions on this site – or just ponder. I’m looking forward to it.


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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.

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