Recently, I was listening to a leadership podcast, and I learned about the Power of Noticing.

After a bit more research on the topic, here is what I captured about leaders who notice:

  • They seek additional information about the situation or scenario. 
  • They avoid making decisions solely on what they hear or recall from the past.
  • They are prepared to challenge the status quo, knowing that what worked in the past is no longer appropriate or viable.
  • They stay away from common biases that prevent an objective approach to decision-making.

Widen Your Frame

We currently hired a contractor (Martin) to build a deck for us in the backyard. This individual has done work for us over the past 10 years, and he is competent, reliable, and friendly. In some cases, I’ve called him in the morning to help with handywork, and he shows up a few hours later to help as needed.

Now … back to the deck in the backyard …

Martin provided a quote for the entire work, and we both agreed it was a fair price.

During the preparation of the site, however, he came across some unexpected expenses. He needed a Bobcat to dig because of the extensive stone below the ground. The cost for this equipment would largely wipe out his profit. The other issue was that the Covid pandemic created a shortage of lumber, which increased the price markedly.

Over the next few weeks, I noticed Martin dropping hints about losing money on this project. I also observed his enthusiasm decreasing. As always, his work was professional, but he no longer had his usual positive attitude.

After carefully observing the situation, Martin and I discussed the agreement about an increase in pay so he could make a profit. My first thought was to stay firm in the original agreement. He was the one who miscalculated, so he would have to absorb the loss.

However, even though my wife and I would normally stay firm to a contract, after a discussion about what we had noticed in the last few weeks, my wife reminded me about how Martin has worked for us many years, and we needed to look at this situation with a wider lens. It is true the quote failed to include unexpected work, but to ensure we maintain a positive working relationship with a loyal contractor, we should seek a compromise.

On a hot Texas afternoon, after Martin had labored most of the day, I approached him about the situation. He suggested an increase of 30% from the original proposal, and he was able to justify the additional request.

We shook hands and agreed to the new deal. Martin appreciated that we noticed his need and altered the contract. He left with a positive attitude toward his work experience and said to let him know if he could be of service again.

Noticing Must be Intentional

To notice is being aware of a situation beyond what is clearly apparent. We must be on the lookout for the subtleties just beyond reach. In some cases, the body language is enough for us to know a potential problem is looming.

However, the information we need is not always evident. Therefore, it’s imperative we seek candid feedback from others. Noticing means we are prepared to hear ideas and recommendations that run counter to our current line of thinking.

In short, it’s far better to make decisions based on validated information, and not just based on what makes us happy.