High performance leaders know how to read the pulse of the organization. They regularly adjust strategies and tactics based on their understanding of what is really going on. This type of X-ray vision is the ability to see the unknown, inner mechanism of people and organizations. Leaders with x-ray vision:

Understand the meaning behind surprises. When people are surprised it gives you insight to their internal landscape of beliefs and expectations. You will also learn more about your own assumptions and recognize that not everyone views the world as you do.

Gain insight from people’s emotions.  When people have an emotional reaction, they are really communicating about something that is important to them. Conversely, if they are working hard to contain an emotional response, that also gives a clue that the issue is significant. Be aware of and sensitive to people’s responses, and your analysis will be better informed.

Recognize the importance of noise.  We’ve all seen it. A seemingly minimal change creates a furor. People become frustrated, distracted and unproductive. This “noise” tells you that something isn’t right or a process is not working. Dig deeper and listen carefully to analyze what is happening, before you respond.

Watch for the vacuum. The signs are chaos, stress and an increasing number of unanswered questions. These symptoms indicate that some aspect of leadership isn’t being filled. Respond quickly with a clear vision and the direction that your people need to move forward. No matter what, the vacuum will be filled. It’s up to you to ensure that it happens productively.

Practice “show me.” When you’re fuzzy about what’s going on, get out of your office. Go connect with your people, see firsthand the challenges they encounter and observe how they resolve them. You will have a more complete picture of their world and be better equipped to support them in their work.

Practice “teach me.”  There is no substitute for direct personal experience. You will further deepen your understanding (and credibility) if you ask others to teach you what they know. Ideally, you should then roll up your sleeves and grapple with this new task. You’ll be better able to strategically address gaps and foster learning when you know from experience how hard it is to get the job done.

Summarize their understanding for others. You’ve gone out there with your x-ray vision, and you think you’ve gleaned just the right information. Before you leap to making changes, restate your insights to others to make sure you’ve got it right. You need to be open to the possibility that other eyes “reading” the situation have picked up on a nuance you’ve missed.

Are fully present. X-ray vision requires that you are not caught up in your own head, your own thinking and your own agenda. In Mark Goulston’s blog on presence for Fast Company, he quotes Wilfred Bion about the importance of listening without memory or desire: “…when you listen with memory, you have an old agenda that you are trying to plug/maneuver someone into and when you listen with desire, you have a new agenda that you’re trying to do the same thing. In neither case are you listening to their agenda and in neither case are you present.”

X-ray vision gives you a new perspective on reality – allowing you to experience its full, connected complexity over time. It takes dedication and hard work to look beyond the surface as an ongoing discipline. As Alfred North Whitehead said, “It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.”


Want to find out how you can acquire x-ray vision or teach this super-power to others? Contact Humanergy.

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