“Learning how to see.” It is actually the metaphorical language of learning how to think. And this skill is ever-important to cultivate in new ways as you move into leadership position. There are some nuances in learning how to see – as a LEADER.

In this 3-part blog, I will share three aspects of learning how to see for your consideration as you continue in your leadership journey, along with some tips on how to practice.

The first important aspect is LEARNING HOW TO SEE WITH INTENTION.

We see what we are looking for. You know that phenomenon where you buy a new car, and then you start seeing that dozens of other people also drive that exact same car in the exact same color? And you thought you were unique!? Ha!

We have a specific thing that is top-of-mind, and then we begin to recognize it all around us in a way that we had not previously noticed. And it is that intention of thought that I suggest is an important skill for us as leaders practice.

There is a leadership practice in the Toyota Production System known as a GEMBA Walk or “Going to the GEMBA”. GEMBA means “the real place”. The leader walks to their GEMBA, the real place where the work is occurring, with a specific intention or standard in mind. This practice creates an opportunity to check the health of their systems and to engage with your team with intention, regarding something specific.

For example, you might go to your GEMBA to observe for safety hazards or unsafe behaviors, or to check that standards or procedures are being followed. You might observe for whether problems are getting corrected in a timely way, or that processes are working the way they are supposed to. And if something is not as you expected, you learn why not.

The purpose of Going to the GEMBA is to learn with intention. It requires a deep curiosity to know what is really going on. It’s not about what you assume is going on, or what you heard is going on, but what is really going on. This practice also demonstrates respect for people. This is because you go to where work is performed and engage with people directly. It gives you an opportunity to be visible, to ask questions and learn, to recognize when someone needs coaching or support, and often to recognize a job well done! (Catching people doing something good is really rewarding for everyone involved!)

“Going to the GEMBA” requires three steps:

  1. Identify the standard or specific thing you want to observe or learn more about.
  2. Engage with the team members at the GEMBA. Tell them why you are there. Observe. Ask them questions about what you are observing. Thank them for their time and input.
  3. Document what you discovered so you can follow up as needed.

Learning how to see – as a LEADER – with INTENTION. What will YOU discover when you go to your GEMBA?