Active Observation; The Key to Business Success

October 7th, 2016

I’m not one for autobiographies but my son (who’s an avid Audible listener) recommended Leading by Alex Ferguson.

I’m not a football geek – although I do enjoy a good game, but I’m loving this book even with the football details!

Chapter 4 is as far as I have listened but already this is a phenomenal book for any business owner. It’s already jumped onto my Top 5 recommended reads.

The first gem Sir Alex delivers is ‘observe’. Such an easy concept – observe – everyone can do it. It takes both discipline and practice to get good at observing but we all observe something every day. We people watch – that’s observing; we watch others in the workplace, how they perform at meetings, how customers and staff behave, how our suppliers behave and treat us, etc.

As a coach I ‘observe’ all the time; actions, voice, pauses, phrases, excuses and so on. But listening to Sir Alex made me wonder if I really do ‘observe’ enough and what do I do with my observations?

It’s hard. We’re not always ‘present’ when observing; we tend to just watch and let most things drift past us without really appreciating what has happened and why. It seems to me that active observing is the key to observing well.

Over that past few days I’ve focussed on active observing and it’s been rewarding. Whilst waiting to see a client I actively observed their environment, who was doing what, how I was treated and it seemed for the first time I noticed a few things that could be easily improved. Feedback to my client was very well received especially when I explained what the trigger was.

At the garage this week I observed the receptionist said ‘I’m looking after another customer at the moment’ – I certainly didn’t feel valued. I didn’t want her to stop dealing with another customer, but perhaps much better to say…. ‘ take a seat I’ll be with you in a moment’. Another small change that leads to a big improvement.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to ‘actively observe’ something today.


Shirley Mansfield is a highly experienced business coach and Master Problem Solver. With over 25 years’ experience, she founded CoachSME in 2011 to work with business owners to maximise growth, and she is still trying to reduce the 14 handicap! Keep up to date by following me on Twitter @coachsme