A typical day for most SME business owners and CEO’s is in the trenches.

We are managing and training people, winning customers, putting out fires, watching the dollars, having meetings, recruiting, networking and having more meetings. We’re busy busy doing what we think is right to get the results we need. And we understand the importance of taking time to work on our business rather than in it and do get to do that sometimes, but probably not as much as we would like or be advised to.

The reason it is important for us to spend time on it rather than in it, is so we can take an aerial view of our business and see it from a different perspective. This allows us to find solutions to problems, be innovative and of course to double down on strategy. It is critical time that we must all commit to if we are going to grow…and a once a year strategy day or summit is not enough.

However, there is an additional tactic that you can use to get an aerial view whilst you are in the trenches. It is called ‘observation’. I actually implemented this in my own business and have done the same for our clients. We have all seen positive impacts.

Simply, this is having someone from outside your business come and observe you in action.

One of the most valuable observation activities we have seen is having your ‘observer’ attend a weekly staff meeting, whether it be in a particular area of your business such as sales or operations or a one on one you are having with a team member. We all know that meetings are the perfect place to waste time and be ineffective!

The purpose of your ‘observer’ is, as expected, to observe the impact of the meeting. They’re not there to make comment, change the direction of the meeting or be involved. They just need to listen for effective and ineffective communication, feel the energy and look for gaps.  Having no attachment to the meeting itself means they can give an unbiased view of how effective the meeting is in achieving your objective.

In a recent example from one sales meeting I observed, there was a clear agenda and committed attendees however I was able to pick up lack of accountability, lack of preparation and lack of purposeful energy. This directly related to budgets not being met.


My feedback to the CEO included observations on how the team slouched at the Boardroom table, gave fluffy plans of what action they were going to take and not loop back to the purpose of the meeting which was sales. As well as the CEO himself not holding anyone accountable for what they said they would do.

With an open-minded CEO and team who welcome feedback, this team took on the feedback, changed behaviour and had big wins within a week of that sloppy meeting!

I love quick turnarounds and this was one of the best I have seen. All because they had fresh eyes from someone who was not in the trenches with them day in day out.

I highly recommend inviting an observer into your business throughout the year to shine a light on areas of improvement you can make in your business that you may not be noticing.

It will cost you nothing and could be all you need to hit those targets you have been missing.

Author: Sel Watts
Sel, the Founder of wattsnext Group, is a visionary and inspiring business leader. With a deep passion for small to medium business (SMB), Sel brings gutsy honesty and commercial realism to the table. A true entrepreneur, Sel is committed to disrupting the way business owners utilise HR and increase performance and engagement. She is also curious about technology and the future of work, using her business as an experimental lab of forward-thinking methodologies to help her clients achieve peak performance. Sel is also the Co-Founder of multiple businesses and spends time coaching other business owners, keeping it real with her vast tactical experience of growing businesses. She also has a pretty interesting life story which you can check out at her personal website sue-ellenwatts.com.