I recently watched My Octopus Teacher, a fascinating documentary about a photographer who dives into the same spot each day for over a year to observe the actions of an octopus. People asked Craig Foster why he went back to that location rather than exploring elsewhere, and he replied that it gave him the opportunity to notice subtle differences that he would otherwise miss.

“Subtle” was also a theme of how he got interested in this quest. Foster had been a photographer in the Serengeti, aided by native animal trackers who followed minute differences as clues to lead them to the big game. He applied the same principle in his work underwater to discover where the octopus was living and where it had recently been.

Too often we gloss over small differences and render them insignificant when, over time, these subtle variations can reveal great value. You likely are not searching for an octopus or lion, but you can adopt the method of consistent observation to track trends, see initial signs of changed behavior, monitor shifts in response, or be the first to spot a divergence that could indicate the start of something significant. Pay attention to the small stuff long enough to ascertain the clues it can provide you.

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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