A company hired a new director to help turn a failing business around. On his first day, eager to establish authority, the director rushed through the hallways to see what was happening. As he walked, the new director noticed a casually dressed young man leaning against the wall not doing anything.
"What exactly is it that you do here?" asked the director.
The young man stood up and said, "Well, I'm just". Before he could finish, the director cut him off. "How much money do you make in a month?" bellowed the director.
"Uh, about $700" replied the young man.
The director pulled out his wallet, counted off 7 $100 bills, and shoved them into young the man's hand. "Take this money, and consider it severance. Now get out!"
Feeling proud of himself, the new director marched down the hallway and noticed another manager at the copy machine. The director yelled, "Any idea what that guy I just fired did around here?"
The manager grinned sheepishly and said, "Pizza Delivery Guy."
Today's Lesson is Prepare to be Aware
The important lesson to learn here is situational awareness. When you first graduate and get a job, your are often told to work hard and good things will come to you. Oh, how wrong people could be. You see, one of the first things you learn at a new job is, who is who and what they do.
Here is another example of situational awareness. Take 90 seconds and watch this video. How many times did the players wearing white pass the ball? Of course, that is not the real question. If your situational awareness was turned on, did you notice the dancing gorilla in the video? The important lesson here is seeing more than what you are used to seeing. And hearing more than you are used to hearing. This helps you tune into your environment.
Now, how do you avoid the folly of the new director in the workplace? For starters, walk around, introduce yourself, and take 2 minutes to learn about people and the role they play in the company. For college students, practice visiting other areas outside of your usual route. Introduce yourself.
Wait, stop. Put down your phone. I mean go introduce yourself in person. Because you will never learn more about people, and human nature, than you will face to face.
You cannot read body language over text, and you cannot see facial expressions on phone calls. You learn invaluable information when you are in somebody's physical presence.
Coffee with Strangers Once a Month
If you are in school, or starting a new job, try blocking off one morning per month to go have coffee with somebody new. Break up your usual routine, and go with somebody you just met, or somebody you have not talked to in a while.
It sounds odd, but breaking up the monotony does wonders for situational awareness. You learn things. You hear new developments. And most importantly, by you taking charge, the other person instantly gives you more respect.
Imagine if the new director at the company took 5 minutes to ask a few questions about people first? How much shame could he avoid if he introduced himself to the pizza delivery guy?
The Value of Observation
I'll close with a joke to demonstrate the value of observation. The owner of a dog walking company was training a new employee. The new employee asked, "What are the two most important things I should know about this job?"
"I'll teach you", the owner says, "but you have to follow my lead."
The new employee agrees, so the owner says, "O.K., first lesson."
The owner precedes to stick her middle finger in a pile of dog poop, raise her hand back up to her mouth, and stick her finger in her mouth.
"That's disgusting" the new employee remarked. The owner told her, "The first thing to learn about this job is to not be grossed out by dog waste. Now you try it."
Hesitating, the new employee stuck her finger in the dog poop and licked her finger clean.
After gagging and coughing, the new employee screamed, "What's the second lesson?"
The owner looked at the new employee and told her: "Observation, because I stuck in my middle finger but I licked my index finger."