• Richard "Pete" Hill, CDE

Look, Listen, Feel




Human action can be modified to some extent, but human nature cannot be changed.

―Abraham Lincoln 1859


What is it about our nature as humans that makes it so difficult to resist making assumptions about people, places and things? The consequences associated with assumptions with respect to places and things are negligible at most. Perhaps you assume a place is to dangerous and consequently you never visit. Or maybe you assume a product is to expensive and you then decide not to purchase―no harm, no foul.


Conversely, when we make assumptions about people, we do a grave disservice to the person or group as well as to ourselves. When we assume things about people we are in the blink of an eye, relying on the reptilian area of our brains. The reptilian area of the brain is responsible for automatic response, knee jerk reactions, and yes assumptions.


As leaders, we can ill afford to rely primarily on instincts, particularly in a multicultural environment. I spend the majority of my waking hours either training and mentoring managers, supervisors and senior executives or I am researching new approaches to old leadership issues and barriers.


Over the years I learned taking time to “Look, Listen, and Feel,” resulted in relying less on assumptions and engaging more with people, particularly,the ones who did not remind me of myself.


From this point forward I will share my perspective on leadership based on the “Look, Listen, and Feel,” principles. I first learned of the Look, Listen and Feel principles as a soldier in the United States Army. This is what we were taught to think when we encountered battlefield injuries. In combat, you do not call 911 and request an ambulance, the first aid your wounded comrade receives will undoubtedly come from you.


When you approach a person with a battlefield injury, the first thing you are taught is to check for breathing. Your first action is to Look at the rise and fall of the chest. Your second action was to placed your ear next to the injured soldier’s nose and Listened for breathing, and last but least, we checked the wrist and neck for signs of a pulse. In other words the priority was to restore breathing, stop bleeding, then treat the wound further.


Leaders must learn to prioritize in the same manner. In the work space, this means you must Look for signs of high morale or high anxiety. You must look for signs of cooperation and collaboration. Leaders must also Listen for gossip and misinformation, in addition to listening for signs that policies, procedures and common practices are having a positive impact. Lastly, leaders must Feel empathy for those who are suffering, leaders must feel an obligation to use their power to benefit the powerless, Most importantly, leaders must make every team member feel as if they belong.

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