“Our whole knowledge comes from our senses”
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci called our senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell) the keys that open the door to experience. His motto was “Saper vedere” or “Know how to watch.” It is the cornerstone of his artistic, as well as his scientific work. It is also interesting that Leonardo’s teacher, who raised him, was called Verokio (in translation, his name means “true eye”). For Leonardo, the eye was “the true window of the soul and the principal means by which reason can comprehend the most endless and comprehensive of the endless works of nature.”
If we think about it a little deeper, most of the time, even in Leonard’s time, but still today, inventions are created by observing and applying the laws and phenomena in nature. Did you know that an umbrella is the result of inspiration from the smooth leaves of plants from which raindrops slip easily?
But not just the eyes are enough to handle a situation comprehensively. It is necessary to engage all the senses. They serve the mind and soul to perceive, sense, reflect, make decisions and define necessary actions. Unfortunately, in today’s world of fast and multiple communications, an excessive amount of messages and information, it happens that people watch – but do not see, listen – rather than hear, eat – and do not feel the taste. If we devote ourselves to the development of the senses, we not only develop the mind, but add to the richness of experience, which will later grow into our knowledge and skills. And in today’s business, having different and deep knowledge and skills is great advantage.
One of the highly valued skills in today’s leadership is the skill of (active) listening. Despite the large number of articles and educations, there are not so many people who understand the meaning of the word active in this context. Most will say that it means participating in a conversation by occasionally nodding, saying “m-hm” or “yes”, asking meaningful questions and repeating the spoken words of the interviewee. They believe that in this way they will show that they are listening. Unfortunately, it is not their fault that they have missunderstood the instructions for active listening. As in other areas, speed and overproduction have contributed to the emergence of not professional people in the education industry. Behind the bombastic headlines of “10 Golden Rules for Success” or “7 Things Successful Leaders Do” you get the tools and description of banal behaviors. It would not surprise me to read a book one day with the instruction: “Wear red socks on Wednesdays and blue on Thursdays – you will be a successful leader.”
A prerequisite for demonstrating any skill, including active listening, is presence. More importantly, being present is also a prerequisite for establishing quality relationships with three parties – yourself, the individual in the team and the whole system. But it’s one of the hardest skills in today’s fast-paced, business world. Businessmen take vacations, fly in uncomfortable planes for hours, even days across several airports and half a world to look again from an other geographical latitude on their cell phones and tablets, with earphones, in the darkened rooms of all inclusive hotels.
It is unlikely thet one will notice the sunset, feel the taste of thyme in the meal or the warmth of the sun on the skin, the smell of salt or the sound of a barge in the open, if the person is not present. And, imagine, how much effort is it needed to listen to the employeetalking about the problems he or she encounters in completing the assignment (assigned by a leader) at the moment when supperior wants that lerader to send a report on the business in the last month! The leader can nod the head three times and say “m-hm” ten times – neither the leader heard the employee, nor the employee believes the leader has.
The first prerequisite for developing and using the senses in a business environment is an aesthetically inspiring work environment. An environment that provokes, opens and develops the senses. Make every effort to make your space, but also the spaces of the people around you, common areas and even toilets inspiring, interesting. In an environment that is increasingly occupied by millennials, the words inspirational, creative and fun are the preferred descriptions of the space in which they want to work. On the other hand, departments responsible for developing people constantly receve training requirements designed to increase employees’ motivation, innovation and creativity. Those requests were sent by company executives who sit in gray-walled offices and with itison floors. You’d be surprised what a plant, colored chairs or interesting wall posters can do. Fresh fruit and sweet music are a bonus. Some bolder attempts, not to mention.
Any psychologist will confirm to you that the quality of stimulation coming from the outside world is crucial for the development of desired traits. Whether it is a child or an adult. Conscious parents are very aware of this, so they equip their children with rooms so that they actively encourage the development of these traits from a very early age. It is precisely creativity and innovation that are increasingly recognized as crucial in today’s business.
Attendance further influences another highly regarded category of assessing the potential and quality of leaders – emotional intelligence. Despite the belief that empathy is the pinnacle of emotional intelligence (EI), it is increasingly important to measure and develop its key elements in the business environment. Elements of EI such as: decision making, reality testing, stress management, assertiveness, self-fulfillment and many others greatly influence the performance of the individual, as well as the team led by that individual.
For example: leaders are often angry. Many of them are, in fact: betrayed, humiliated, scared and the like. Likewise, in good times they are “good”. And in fact they are: proud of themselves, happy, excited and the like. Then, when they invest time into a pause – at a time when they are alone, they can reach the deepest depths of themselves and understand how they really are and why they feel that way. When they notice through a window that a bird has flown, that the air is dry or that it to hot in the room, then they will be able to “read” their condition. And the moment they start dealing with their own condition is exactly when they start finding the keys to their experiences. From that moment on, they begin to more intensely and deeply learn from those experiences. Then they start to become the leaders they wanted to be.
As a result of presence, emotional intelligence and pause, the leaders will begin to notice changes in their employees’ behaviors, levels of personal and others’ motivation. They will also begin to understand complex situations from different perspectives and thus be open to hear and see different perspectives. Then, they will be present and then will actively listen to the interlocutor. Without counting the repetition of a nod or “m-hm”.
Start with the little things. Bring in the colors to the office. Put your plant, which you will look after. Look into the distance and slowly begin to focus your vision looking for details in the landscape. Listen to and extract different sounds from the noise. Notice how different your skin feels in contact with different materials. Be present during the meal – notice the flavors. Find your little exercises to develop your senses. By developing your senses, you enrich your experiences. And, experiences are the key to development and learning. For everyone, even the leaders.