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Spark Volume 14 – Noticing as a Leader

While the word on its own may sound simple or passive, “Noticing” holds immense power in leadership. When we take the time to truly Notice the details, actions, behaviors, and consequences of our own work and the work of those around us, we become responsible for addressing what we see, whether good or bad.

Noticing creates room for praise, for gratitude, for mentoring in the moment, and for growth opportunities. It takes an insightful individual to Notice; it takes a leader to act on what is Noticed.

In addition to our Noticing Sparks below, we have also curated a few beautiful stories of the compassionate and courageous leadership we have been Noticing outside of our health care realm amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, was one of the first to close its doors to put team members first, Brené Brown, through her new podcast Unlocking Us, digs deep into naming the feelings we are having and talking about the emotional strain it is having on everyone, and AllBird CEO Tim Brown commits to donating a pair of Wool Runners to thank a health care professional with every purchase.

The Beauty of Grating Cheese

To Notice is to thoughtfully acknowledge what some may deem invisible. This thoughtful episode of This American Life uses its mastery in storytelling to address many topics that the average human may not Notice. Most connected to the work we do is “Act Three: Stiff as a Board, Light as a Feather” where the then terminally ill David Rakoff, challenged by the loss of the use of his left arm, finds beauty in normal living that we don’t acknowledge or see until it’s too late—things like being able to grate cheese normally. So simple, so obvious – until you try it with one hand. David’s lighthearted approach to a challenging situation demonstrates how he saw life through a different lens and Noticed how things worked in a wholly new way.


What are some tasks we do every day that we simply take for granted? What tools help us? What might happen without these tools?

To Thine Own Self Be True

What’s your superpower? Your kryptonite? How quickly could you answer those questions? This simple three-step guide to becoming self-aware from The Harvard Business Review doesn’t just talk about how important self-awareness is (that’s not a new insight), it talks about how to actually accomplish it. Great leaders don’t only Notice those around them, they Notice themselves through the careful practice and cultivation of self-awareness.

To boil it down, self-awareness really only requires three simple steps:

  1. We must understand our own makeup – our personalities, our strengths, and our habits.
  2. We must make a focused effort to observe our decisions and decision-making processes. What do we discover upon making these (sometimes difficult) observations?
  3. We must turn awareness outwards and use it as a tool for team building. When we know what our strengths and weaknesses are, we can better fill in the gaps on our teams.

Presence. Period.

Providers must not only be there for their patients, they must be there with their patients. With the rapid transformation of caring practices, growing stress, and a sea of unknowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, providers are navigating the delicate balance of being present and also physically distant from patients and their families. This provocative piece by esteemed medical thought leader Dr. Abraham Verghese encourages providers to Notice not just a patient’s symptoms, but the patient as a whole being.

Seeing the whole person requires careful and attentive Noticing. Verghese shares his Experience of stopping in an art museum and slowly being pulled in as he observed the works of art. Time and again he would LOOK and each time discovered something new, saw something else, felt a new emotion. He applies this thinking to his medical work–what can you see when you truly Notice? Did you Notice the cigarette box outline in the pocket? The mother who had a skin condition? The look in a patient’s eyes? We should consciously take in the whole person to make the Connection–and be present. Patients and guests don’t only deserve this Noticing, they require it to heal and to thrive.

What knowledge might we glean from people’s lives when giving them all of our ''Noticing'' energy? What are the invisible, yet powerful, forces in our work that deserve Noticing? Is it a daily technology that makes it possible to complete a task or project? Is it the environmental service crew that works the night shift to ensure a safe and clean space? What good might come from acknowledging these individuals fully? How might we shed the right kind of light on these people or practices to ensure that we are not the only one who Notices them?

Spark Volume 13 – LOOKING at The Principle of Noticing

In today’s world, we are exposed to an endless amount of stimuli every day. Particularly in the time of the COVID-19 crisis, Noticing the good sometimes feels impossible: to truly see what’s there and what’s not. And, many times we don’t even realize that we become blinded to the everyday wonders around us. When we Notice the people, our environment, and our own actions in their purest form, we discover new beauties, new opportunities for growth, and new solutions.

Let’s consider how we might pause long enough to open our eyes to the magic that is already there; we will be surprised at what we find.

This Month in “Big E Experience”: Brain Training

We get it – Noticing can be hard when there’s so much on your plate. Not to fear. There’s an easy way to “win” the Noticing game: mindfulness. Mindfulness expert Cara Bradley equated Noticing to your brain’s bicep curl. Noticing encourages focusing on where you’re meant to be, both physically and mentally, in the present moment.

In fact, the entire purpose of meditation, one of the most common practices of mindfulness, is Noticing. Noticing breath. Noticing thoughts entering and exiting your brain. Noticing the ache in your hip or the itch on your cheek. When we Notice, we tune into the most innate, raw, natural state of ourselves and our surroundings. And Noticing is catching on in the corporate world, too. As Bradley notes, “injecting a corporate culture with a fresh dose of mindfulness not only improves employees’ focus, but also their ability to manage stress and collaborate. Who wouldn’t want that?”

Take three minutes to practice self Noticing. Sit in a comfortable position and set a timer on the phone. Close your eyes and breathe deeply–in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice what the air feels like as it’s entering your nostrils. Notice where the breath is headed within the body with each inhale. Upon exhalation, Notice what might be worth letting go. Is it stress? Concern? A to-do list? Notice as you let them go and thank them for being there.

What Are You Missing?

World-renowned violinist Joshua Bell experimented with the power of Noticing when he played for 43 minutes in the Washington DC metro during rush hour – completely unNoticed. Over the course of the performance, just seven people stopped to listen, and he collected only $32 in his violin case.

This is a fantastic example of the need to Notice the music all around us – to take the time to take time. With only so many moments in our day, it’s critical that we give ourselves permission to truly LOOK and Notice the diverse elements that surround us.

Think of a recent time you missed out on something because you were distracted, either personally or professionally? What got in the way? How might you stay present next time?

Empathetic Signage

“Children play here. Pick up after your dog.” If you Noticed this sign on your morning walk, would you feel more compelled than usual to clean up? This is the power of empathetic signage, which business thought leader, Daniel Pink, masterfully brings to life in this recording of his PechaKucha presentation on signage. When we design solutions with human emotions in mind, we not only encourage empathy, we also LEAD customers and team members to change their behaviors for the better. Creating this type of signage and reaction takes dual-sided Noticing: not only did you have to Notice the heart-wrenching dog sign, the individual who designed the sign had to Notice that you are, in fact, human.

Spark Volume 12 – Reimagining Orchestration
“You are a valuable instrument in the orchestration of
your own world, and the overall harmony of the universe.
Always be in command of your music. Only you can control
and shape its tone. If life throws you a few bad notes or
vibrations, don’t let them interrupt or alter your song.”
― Suzy Kassem


Orchestration is the invisible thread that pulls us together and ensures every small part of our work, whether service, a team member, or a software system, unites as a cohesive whole. Let’s continue to explore ways to understand our own power as leaders, the keepers of the thread, of the “Big E Experience” work in our health care systems.

A Delightful Box

Monthly subscription boxes continue to be a household go-to, so making a business stand out is a challenge. Beauty product company BirchBox brilliantly realized that its sustainability as a business depended on placing the Orchestration of the customer Experience in the most savvy hands – those of its customers. Birchbox launched as a transformational company giving consumers the beauty counter-sampling Experience, curated and shipped to their homes each month. Because they are a mostly digital interface, BirchBox knew that in order to avoid fading into a saturated market, they needed to stay relevant, and what better way to do that than to put the power into the hands of the consumer? Using customer input, they are able to tailor the Experience to the customer’s beauty preferences and then offer products that the customer might not have found themselves. By Orchestrating and personalizing the Experience, BirchBox can delight its customers every time they open a box. Founder Katia Beauchamp shares how she built Birchbox and divulged that she believes “if you’re going to do something discretionary, it’s the retailer’s responsibility to make it really delightful.”

How can we Orchestrate a personalized Experience for our internal and external customers? As leaders, how can we invite others to provide input?