Did he notice me? On perceptions, noticing, management and education


Photo by takomabibelot

I am constantly amazed how my interest subjects are overlapping. I wrote in this blog a few times about how I find management lessons in reading epic fantasy. Another subject that correlates with my interest in managing people is the subject of education. Lately, I started following an interesting blog dealing with education by Angela Maiers. Yesterday she wrote a post called: “Two powerful words: I notice” about the importance of noticing students in the classroom. In the post she referred to a quote from the movie Shall We Dance uttered by Susan Sarandon character, Beverly Clark:

We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.

And I think this approach is not only important in marriage or as a teacher in the classroom but also as a manager of people. I am a passionate person and usually I do my job as best as I can. And I know from my own experience that there is a high correlation between whether I felt noticed and my motivation. Actually, over the years I discovered how much I yearn for recognition and how frustrated I feel when I am not noticed. In my e-book, I described this story:

After 8 months of internship, my boss took me to lunch, and offered me to stay at that firm as a full time lawyer once I pass the bar exam. I told him that what troubles me is that I did not get any feedback. I only learned by trial and error and a little by watching what others do, and not by direct feedback. I said I would like that to change if I was to stay. He was genuinely surprised. He said to me: “Well, if I were not happy with you, you would have already known”. When I think about it, I still can’t quite grasp that reaction. But it really stands for how people usually feel. If there is nothing wrong, there is no need to say anything. Frightening!

While I know it is dangerous to extrapolate from my own experience to a general rule, I found that while not everybody feels the same, many people do. When I teach motivation in the Israeli Air-Force I talk about the expectancy theory of motivation by Victor Vroom.  One of the main concepts in this theory is that there needs to be a clear connection between the effort people put in and the optional reward. According to the theory, one question people ask themselves before they act is “will somebody notice what I do?”. The theory is not straightforward but when I talk about this part and ask for an example, almost all the students in the class have one. Too many of us go unnoticed.

Just yesterday I wrote about the unpredictability of rewards and its importance.  In order to be really unpredictable but also create an effective response to our rewards, we need to notice our employees.  And it is not enough to notice, it is also important to let them that you notice. Most business people will tell you that marketing is all about perception. The qualities of your product are not as important as how people perceive you r product. I think we should employ similar thinking to our employees. Noticing our employees is important but making sure that they know we are noticing them is just as important.


7 Responses to “Did he notice me? On perceptions, noticing, management and education”

  1. Tweets that mention Did he notice me? On perceptions, noticing, management and education « The Comparative Advantage -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Manager Guru, Elad Sherf. Elad Sherf said: New Blog Post: Did he notice me? On perceptions, noticing, management and education http://bit.ly/3meU29 […]

  2. Derek Irvine Globoforce Says:

    Elad, another strong post. You are indeed correct on the importance of noticing our people. I recall a blog post I read many months ago (apologies for not recalling the source now) in which the author spoke of the Zulu common greeting — similar to an English “Hello” — translates to “I see you.” And the proper response is “You have been seen.”

    The power in that is incredible — I see you, I acknowledge your presence, and I choose to interact with you because I view you as important and valuable.

    How much more do our valuable employees need to be seen! We ran a contest a few months ago for stories of recognition gone wrong in the workplace. This one was one of our winners: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/04/recognition-gone-wrong-theres-nobody.html

  3. sherfelad Says:

    Thanks Derek,
    As usual your insights are fascinating. The example is really amazing, how blind can managers really be?

  4. Jason Christensen Says:

    You are right, recognition is important. There are many ways to motivate your team, bolster loyalty & elevate morale on a budget. Sometimes all you need to do is:
    -Take a genuine interest in people.
    -Keeping an open line of communication.
    -Help people to understand the importance of their role.
    -Bestow recognition on your team.
    -Cultivate their career development plans.
    Here is an article on on how to do that. http://jasonchristensen.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/on-a-budget-motivating-your-team-bolstering-loyalty-elevating-morale-full-series/

  5. sherfelad Says:

    Thanks Jason,
    Really good article you have there. I really liked the remote implications. The same ideas are relevant to remote teams, we just need to be a little more creative in our implementation.
    Hope to see you comment here again…

  6. Anne Says:

    The best manager I ever worked for did one thing regularly (each day). He addressed each employee (by name) at the end of their shift and thanked them for the days work.
    Our shifts at the time were about 10-15 employees. It’s been 20 yrs since working with him and he still stands out!
    It was such a simple uncomplicated exercise…
    Anyone could do this… Yet he was the only one…

  7. sherfelad Says:

    Anne, you are so right. your comment is so great, i just made it into a post of its own…

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