Leader, Are You Aware of the Difference Between Knowing and Noticing?

Welcome to the first Scientific Leadership Newsletter post! 

There’s a good chance you’re reading this because you are interested in growing as a leader. There’s also a good chance that, like me, your areas of expertise are the foundation of your career. This expertise, this knowing, has been a source of opportunities and possibilities for you, and it’s comforting to rely on it.

And yet – again, like me! – you may have reached a point where all that expert knowledge and training doesn’t seem to apply any more.  Generally this happens when:

  • You have expanding responsibilities
  • You’re working on more complex problems
  • You’re dealing a lot with people who aren’t expert like you

….all characteristics of leadership roles. 

And these new situations can be – let’s admit it – uncomfortable. But not for long:

The purpose of this newsletter is to help you grow beyond your technical training and gain mindsets and skills that allow you to approach the complex, messy, real world of work with greater skill and ease.  

So let’s get started with the first mindset shift to build scientific leadership: 

From knowing to noticing.

Last week, I met with a potential client company.  I’d drafted and submitted a thorough proposal.  That content was in my mind during the conversation, along with what I’d already learned about the company’s needs.  (The “knowing“)

One of the leaders asked a question.  My first reaction was to think, “I know the answer to this question!  It’s in my proposal.  I should show it to them again.” But something made me pause. 

I looked at the leader. 

They appeared concerned. 

I sensed that there was more to their question. 

So instead of reciting the answer, I asked a follow-up question, and learned something important.

This was the “noticing.”  Instead of relying on my bevy of facts,  I used the cues of the moment to choose another, better action.  And the “knowing” almost got in the way, because I was so sure I knew the answer, and so wanted to provide it, that it was hard to “notice” what was actually happening.

To be sure, holding and applying knowledge is essential, and doing it well builds credibility.  But I’m guessing that’s already pretty automatic for you.

Instead, next time you are in a meeting or a conversation, take a minute to notice something that’s happening in that moment – not what you expect to happen, and not what you already know.  Ask yourself, what did I learn from the noticing?

Please let me know what you try or discover. I answer all emails.

You’ll hear from me again in two weeks.

Thank you!


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