What do you see or notice about your peers, or direct reports that merits acknowledgment and recognition? Are you even aware of what your colleague works on right now that makes them proud? Why are they excited to come to work each day?
To learn the answers to these questions, you need to have excellent observation skills. You need to become an amazing observer of people and the great things going on all around you.
Check out a few of the ways you can use to develop amazing observation abilities.
What Are Observation Skills?
Observation skills, as related to employee recognition, are all about how you use all five of your senses to know and learn about the people you work with better and become more aware of all the amazing things going on at work.
Reasons for observation skills: Know why you want to develop observation skills and become better at recognizing those you work with. To become a better observer of people and the amazing things going on at work, you had better know why first. This focus and vision will help you have the right glasses on and the desire and motivation to make necessary changes. It will be wonderful what you see and hear.
- Look to your organization for their recognition purpose and philosophy statements to see how well aligned you are with these beliefs.
- Gain information, research and statistics to strengthen your case for why recognition is important and why observations skills will help you.
Becoming more mindful: Remove distractions from around you as you look at and listen to what people are doing. Put the smartphone away when talking with people. Give your full attention to those around you. Ask permission from people if they would mind if you made notes. Observe what you see in their facial and body expressions. Visit and look at their workplace and see what you can learn from their working environment. Pick up ideas to converse on and learn about the person.
- Become familiar with how you do in being fully present when meeting in person or virtually with staff.
- List the areas where you might have difficulty and then tally up how good or bad you do in a future employee interaction.
Open up your ears: Develop good active listening skills while talking to people on the phone, on video conference calls, or during in-person conversations. Give people your undivided attention and give verbal and non-verbal feedback to show you’re listening. You will pick up from their tone of voice how they are feeling about things and their general well-being. Respond appropriately to their comments and don’t make any judgements on what they have shared.
- As you learn to listen more carefully, you’ll discern if a person does not sound like their usual self. More often than not, you’ll find out they have a headache or they’re feeling stressed.
- Look people in the eyes where culturally appropriate and nod your head to show you are following the discussion.
Note things down: Write the observations you make about people, the work they do, their interests, and insights on how they best like to be recognized. Our observation skills are only as good as the notes we make online or in a notebook. Relying on memory alone is not always a good thing to do. An old quote says that “the faintest pen (or pencil) is better than the sharpest memory.” Create a master list of typical recognition preferences and personalize the information for each employee.
- Have a written journal just for note taking during employee meetings if permitted.
- Find out how each employee likes to be recognized and how they feel you are doing in frequency of recognition giving.
Learn to read with care: Read emails carefully for indications of things people are excited about at work and when they disclose personal concerns. Make note of email signature files that share when they’ll be away on vacation. Pick up on the expressed, or even the non-expressed, tone of voice between the lines of the printed word. Be sensitive and courteous in all your responses back to them.
- Seek clarification from a peer if you don’t understand the intent in an email. They will be more than willing to explain and appreciate you reaching out.
- When you know the health or personal concern of an employee, ask quickly about this at the beginning of your email. Then proceed with the question or request. More often than not, they will answer your wellbeing question with a thank you.
Questions are powerful: Learn to ask good, open-ended questions that stimulate discussion and the sharing of feelings and information. Find out how well they think you are at recognizing them and others. Discover what the favorite part of their job is and the things they don’t like. Sit down with them and find out what their recognition preferences are what aspect of recognition they dislike. Make sure that you act on these insights.
- Consider practicing the question you want to ask by writing them out first to make them short and effective.
- Learn to respond to information you receive by asking questions that get straight to explaining things better, so you have a better grasp.
Recognition Reflection: Is sufficient time spent teaching everyone to become better observers for giving meaningful recognition?
Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.