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Why being seen matters, and how to make yourself more visible… other than wearing a Hi-Vis jacket

Our first challenge when setting out for a 3-day hike in the mountains and wilderness of New Zealand was to cross a glacial fed river. But the water was too high and fast-flowing to cross on foot, so we, along with a group of four other intrepid trekkers hired a local man with a boat to get us and our gear to the other side.

Safely across (and still dry – hurrah!) we put on our backpacks and noticed that our 4 other companions were busily putting on Hi-Vis jackets. They must be very safety conscious we thought.

So, we asked and were told, “You do know it’s the Roar, don’t you?”

With our ignorance shining as brightly as the fluorescent orange of their jackets, we were advised the Roar is the time of year when stags are on the look-out for a mate, and yes, they roar! It’s also the time when hunters have permission to hunt the stags, and unfortunately each year there are a number of mistaken identities that occur, resulting in hikers being shot.

Eeeek!

Not fancying ending up having our heads stuffed and mounted above a hunter’s mantelpiece, we were very grateful to be lent a fluoro jacket that kept at least one of us safe.

 

Being visible matters

While there will always be those times when things haven’t gone so well and you wish you could borrow Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak for a while, we are social creatures at heart and we like to be seen.

Being seen means you’ve been noticed (Duh, Jenny I know)

Being seen means you have a connection to other people.

Being seen means you are part of a tribe, a team or a family unit and feel safe.

This instils a sense of belonging, an essential component to our health and wellbeing.

So, what happens when you feel unseen, invisible, or taken for granted?

It’s not good, is it?

Being noticed at work and getting the attention of your colleagues, your manager, supervisor, or boss could mean you’re not performing as well as expected and you are undergoing “performance management.”

Or you might be performing fabulously well, you’re the top of the class, and being lauded by everyone as a potential future leader. Bravo!

But what if you’re neither one nor the other. You’re turning up each day, you do your job well, you work hard, and you deliver the expected results and yet… no one ever seems to appreciate the effort and time you put in. No one ever says, “thank you” and you’re left feeling unvalued, unappreciated and you wonder why you bother at all.

Being taken for granted is on nobody’s work wish list.

It’s too easy to become unseen and it’s not necessarily deliberate either.

The modern workplace is fast paced, challenging, complex and complicated. When everyone is super busy, nose to the grindstone, it’s easy not to notice what your colleagues or other members of your team have been achieving. You meant to say something, to congratulate them on a personal win, but you were caught up in another task and the moment passed by.

 

Why positive leadership is a must not a maybe

The positive leader understands that it is as important to spend equal time with those employees who are doing well, as much as those at either end of the spectrum.

The same scenario plays out in the school system, little wonder that those “in the middle” can feel left out, less supported, less encouraged to do well because the accolades always go to those who topped the exams.

This, over time, translates into lower self-confidence, lower motivation to try hard because you can get by doing less and reduces that individual’s opportunity to excel.

We care deeply what others think of us.

We care deeply about being included and noticed because if you’re left feeling you’re on the outer, it causes immense social pain.

If you’ve sometimes wondered why an efficient and well-liked team members decided to quit without any obvious reason why.

Ask. 

“Were they being sufficiently noticed, acknowledge and thanked for their efforts?” 

“What signals if any, did they receive that made them feel a valuable team member?”

Research by Dan Ariely author of “Predictably Irrational” has shown that having your work efforts ignored invokes the same feeling of rejection as seeing it being put through a shredder without being looked at. Ouch!

Unaddressed social pain leads to simmering resentment and frustration until one day the tipping point is reached and…well, I guess you know what happens, you quit.

We’ve been brought up to believe that if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything and that’s simply not true and similarly being ignored because you’re doing OK is not helpful to a positive workplace culture.

Being ignored or ghosted has been shown to cause greater psychological pain than being shouted at. Yes, really.

Last year I wrote in another blog how being ignored changes our behaviours and thinking patterns, and not in a good way.

 

Increasing visibility for all

  1. Setting aside a few moments to connect, really connect with those you work with every day
  2. Engaging with eye contact (unless culturally inappropriate), putting on your best warmest and most authentic smile, using their correct name (please don’t call me Jane) acknowledging their presence with a cheery hello or good morning and an open-ended question that invites then to share some meaningful beyond “Good thanks.”
  3. Checking the pulse. This is where the leader, business owner, manager or supervisor leaves their office and walks thought the area where their employees are working, not to check up on them, but to check in that everything is going alright, and if there is anything they need that would make their work easier to complete. The benefit here is it strengthens interpersonal relationships, and lowers the “us and them” scenario because the leader is seen as more human and caring.
  4. Encouraging open and honest conversation, where everyone knows it’s OK to speak up, ask a question, seek clarification, or express a concern and to expect that they will not only be listened to, but appropriate actions are also taken to rectify or improve a situation.
  5. Calling out the good. In those workplaces where employees and leaders naturally call out when they see great work being done and publicly praise efforts, everyone feels good, which naturally boosts motivation in everybody. Whether you have a praise wall where all good deeds, work related wins and gratitude is expressed, or an event where people are publicly thanked for stepping up they both work really well.

Psychologist Susan David author of “Emotional agility” talks about our need to be seen and shares the Zulu word for ‘hello’ Sawubona, that translates into ‘I see you!’

 

Are you being seen?

Do you strive to ensure that everyone that you interact with on a regular basis, gets to feel seen?

How has being overlooked or taken for granted impacted how you felt about a particular role or job? 

How can you as a leader raise inclusion to involve those quiet achievers, as well as those falling into the extremes of performance?

 

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase

If mastering the art of thriving for sustainable high-performance is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.

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