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Posted by on Apr 3, 2012

Achtung!

Many of you probably recognize the German word for “attention.” Did I just capture yours? How long did I keep it? What’s important to you about “attention?” Why do I keep asking you rhetorical questions? How many more questions will I ask? Hmmm…

I recently attended a webinar. The topic of the webinar had intrigued me, and I had never heard one from the organization presenting it before. So I dutifully registered and looked forward to seeing (and hearing) a new perspective on the topic at hand.

About five minutes into the webinar, the presenter posed a “yes/no” question to the audience; however, the answer(s) offered were in a multiple choice format. I sat and scratched my head, thinking that I must have missed something. I opted not to answer the question, thinking that the other 175 or so people on the webinar who had answered quickly had clearly heard (or saw) something that I had not.

Since they had (what I perceived) to be more or different information than me, I would defer to their thinking. I mean, after all, I was sitting in a virtual room with 175 of my newest colleagues, so I decided to go with the majority.

I then decided to pay a little more attention than I had been. As I listened and watched the webinar unfold, it became apparent (at least to me), that the information was a bit spotty. I perceived the presenter was navigating between key points in a way that was totally logical to her, but clearly was not logical to me. I wondered about the others on the webinar. Was I the only one witnessing this? Did it matter? Was I still missing something?

I had a choice to make. Do I continue on the webinar? Or do I bail?

At that precise moment, I recognized that I was doing something that I frequently coach my clients (who are leaders) not to do.

I was judging the webinar.

Because of my inability to connect the dots, I had begun to judge the entire experience. Surely I couldn’t be part of the problem. I had, in a nanosecond, begun to formulate beliefs about the presenter, the company she worked for, and the organization she was representing. My beliefs may or may not be accurate, but that wasn’t the point. The point, for me, was how I had begun to pay attention. And that was troubling.

I had begun to look and listen for reasons not to pay attention. I looked and listened only for the things to reinforce my ever-increasing intense belief that the presenter wasn’t prepared (she was), or that her information wasn’t relevant (it was).

I chuckled. Out loud. At myself.

No matter how much I learn, read, investigate, analyze, or “know,” the more I realize that the type of attention we pay to others is critical in informing our world view. When we observe the world from a place of curiosity, not judgment, the world becomes a different place.

I intentionally changed my frame of mind. I made my brain ask questions like, “I wonder what she’s going to cover next” rather than “I’m sure the next point isn’t going to follow.” I curiously anticipated what was coming next, rather than sitting and waiting to judge the next statement. The rest of the webinar was very informative, and the information was presented in a way that was not how I would do it, but was equally (if not more) effective.

As leaders, we get to make a choice. Moment by moment. What captures our attention may not be what keeps our attention. But in a world of competing demands for our attention, shouldn’t we be curious rather than judgmental? I’m curious to hear what you think…

Anaïs Nin: ‘We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.’

1 Comment

  1. Very good reminders about non-judgment and curiosity, Scott. I once asked a leader I was coaching to count the number of times he started a sentence with”I’ll bet…” vs. “I wonder…” . Fascinating to observe how often we think we already know something. Even when we do, is that the point?!

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