Situational Awareness Is Essential To Great Leadership

  By Barb Bruno  |    Thursday February 29, 2024

Category: Uncategorized


We have all experienced employees that are so wrapped up in what they are doing that they are seemingly unconscious of how their actions affect anyone else.  Yesterday, I had a slow driver drift in front of me into the passing lane of the expressway even though we were the only two cars in sight.

I especially enjoy hearing very personal conversations when I’m in an elevator or check out line.  Or what about the person who parks their car diagonally in a parking space that was meant for two cars.  

These are simple examples of a lack of situational awareness.  This can happen in a certain moment or become a habitual problem that can impact the level of success the person will achieve.  A lack of situational awareness can be annoying but can also cause poor decision-making.  Obviously, situational awareness is an essential skill for entrepreneurs and leaders.

There are three primary characteristics of someone who has developed this skill.  First, they perceive all elements of their surroundings and their relationship to each other.  Second, they understand and assess their meaning and impact.  Third, they accurately determine if they will take or avoid taking any action.

So, what does it take to become situationally aware? A well-developed situational awareness requires a combination of hindsight and analysis of your prior experiences.  To better understand how to become situationally aware, study the three-step process: 1) Dynamic Awareness and Perception; 2) Understanding; and 3) Predicting.

In the Staffing and Recruiting Profession we have people on both sides of our sale, and no two days are alike.  However, there are patterns of behavior that are repeated and if one of your employees believes they can or can’t do something they are correct, unless you step in and help change their perception and as a result improve their results.

Understanding the consequences of certain actions or decisions comes with experience.  You don’t want to become that person who says, “been there, done that” but your team can also learn from your prior mistakes.

Predicting is also fine tuned with experience and knowing individual stats and ratios.  It is very difficult to be situationally aware and able to predict outcomes if you are leading by emotion vs. numbers.  Numbers take the mystery out of consistently attaining or surpassing goals and objectives.

You may wonder how situational awareness matters to you and the other leaders in your company.  I’ve listed five situations where this skill is most valuable.


When you hire a new recruiter or account executive

A new recruiter or salesperson will have a learning curve and will encounter issues or make mistakes.  It’s up to leadership to help new hires feel welcome and valued for their skills and contributions.  Your guidance makes a huge difference in how a new hire integrates with your experienced team.


When you notice conflicts among your team members

Situational awareness involves picking up on nonverbal clues. A heavy mood among the team, tense facial expressions, or people who avoid eye contact with each other are some of the many clues that there could be conflict among team members. Or it could even mean that something you are doing as a leader may be causing stress within the team. It is important to hone in on the source of the problem and deal with it quickly before it derails productivity and morale.


Where you notice bias or aggression

We hire aggressive, competitive, Type A personalities and you must pay attention.  Do you observe issues that make you cringe?  Do you see a team member being dismissed or held to unrealistic standards?  The best way to alleviate this is to improve the understanding of acceptable behavior before incidents occur.  Continual team building is essential in a competitive, sales environment.

As mentioned before, lack of experience (and the resulting poor mental frameworks) can affect good situational awareness. But other factors can affect it as well, especially in cases where one is usually pretty good at it. These include fatigue, overwork, distractions, poorly presented information gaps in training, and emotional and physical distractions. These factors affect not only leaders but also team members.

One of the best ways to improve it is to gather as much information as possible and assess prior situations. Done right, preferably with all affected parties, you will develop a clear, common understanding of what could be improved next time.

Not sure if you have ever watched the TV Show “Undercover Boss” but every episode reveals how disconnected leadership can become from the individuals who keep you in business.  Attempt to take an outside approach when interacting with your team.  See issues, challenges, and pain points from their point of view to become better at fine tuning your situational awareness.

Training is also key to resolving many issues while helping your team achieve the greatest success.  If you’d like to talk to one of our experts about your specific challenges, use the QR Code to schedule a call.


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