We humans are basically pack animals. We surround ourselves with many of the same faces day in and day out. Over time, that familiarity tends to limit our clarity and curiosity about our “pack mates.” We inadvertently discount their ideas and contributions, often in small ways that can really add up.
It’s as much a problem for leaders as it is for others.
It’s in our nature that, without extra effort, the better we know someone the less real-time awareness of their value we will have. I don’t like to call this “taking people for granted”—while it may describe the others’ feelings, it’s certainly not intentional.
After all, if you commute the same way to work every day, and stop noticing that grey house with all the cars in the driveway, are you taking the house for granted?
You are not. Since you’re not noticing anything “new” about the house, your brain recedes it into the landscape. But if you looked closely at it again, you might see some interesting features you hadn’t noticed before.
And even when we make an effort to really tune in to our pack mates, we don’t always look for the best in them, even though it's worth the effort. Why? When you actively, deliberately look for the best in others, that’s exactly what you’ll find.
Here’s how to practice:
Over the course of a day or two, look at everyone you encounter in a new way—when you lay eyes on them, imagine everything you like (or love) the most about them right away. Then imagine them doing and being at their best.
What do you notice? First, I’ll bet it’s good.
Next, I’ll bet there’s something worth your while that you may have missed, or forgotten, until you tried this little practice.
It takes effort ... primarily, a little self-reminding. And the rewards are great. When you work at it, others will begin to say you're one of those people who makes them feel important, who truly tunes in, and sees them.
In doing so, you'll know how best to deploy them, and at the same time, inspire them to be at their best. That’s worth some effort, wouldn’t you say?