Stop, Listen, Look, Smell

Tuning into your environment can give you a competitive edge and help you connect
By Scott Mann, Rooftop Leadership Training
February 21, 2019 Updated: March 19, 2019

When I was going through Ranger School we would do missions all over the United States—up in the mountains of North Georgia, the desert in Texas, and the swamps of North Florida.

One thing stayed consistent: we would always roll out of the chopper and move quickly into the wood line. We would lay down in the prone position on our bellies and we would wait for the chopper to lift off and then we would wait for the signal that it was time to do SLLS—stop, look, listen, and smell.

We do that to adjust from a very noisy, chaotic, fast-paced environment to this new territory where we are literally animals on the hunt.

We are on a mission and so we have to adjust. We have to acclimate ourselves quickly to the sights, sounds, smell, and feel of the environment around us.

Have you ever seen an animal that’s on the edge of a forest fire? They’ll stop, they’ll look, they’ll listen, and they’ll smell. It’s the same approach. It’s basically recognizing that you’ve gone from one environment to a new environment and immersing yourself in that new environment. 

And that is a useful toolset, not just in the military world, but also in your life, whether you are a corporate leader, entrepreneur, or you’re just taking your family out to eat in a crowded restaurant.

The recognition that one is moving from one environment to another—and allowing your senses to dial into that new environment and become present—is a very relevant thing to do as a leader.

It allows you to show up in a way that is much more effective. To be present in the chaos is to be relevant to those we lead because all around us, this chaos is churning.

Try this—walk into a restaurant and just notice how people are behaving. Most likely they’re lost in their own conversations. They’re not paying attention to what’s going on around them. Most of them have their faces buried in their phones. They’re in their heads, not in their bodies, and it’s just this loud cacophony of chaos.

Experiment with this everywhere you go and you’ll see it—most people are stuck in their own head. Many are not really connecting to the other person. Few are really dialed in.

I want you to be different.

Whenever you walk into a new environment, you should do your own version of SLLS. This will make you more situationally aware. You will automatically be more present and aware of what’s going on around you than most other people, which gives you a competitive edge.

By doing SLLS in our life and business, we automatically send a signal to our brain to drop in and be present. And when we’re present, we’re available to other people. The other party senses this and they reciprocate that action.

These are the skills that can help you own the room. Just by being present and available, you become the most relevant person there.

 So how do you do it?

Well, when you get in the room, stop. Look around. Notice what you see. What’s the baseline? Are people comfortable? Uncomfortable? Passive? Aggressive? Are they paying attention to each other? Are they on their phones?

Then listen. Take in the sounds and let them occupy your personal space. You can even close your eyes and just listen and absorb what you hear. It will really give you a baseline of what’s going on in the room and it’ll drop you in.

Now, smell. Our sense of smell is such a powerful thing and we don’t use it enough. So just take a moment again, eyes closed and just take in the smells.

Now you’re activating your senses.

Larry Moss, one of the best directors on the planet, says that when you walk onto the stage, you need to know what it feels like in the scene. What does the rain smell like? Can you smell the mildew? Can you hear the raindrops on the ground? Can you feel them on your skin?

The more aware we are at a sensory level, the more effective we are, the more present we are. Any version of SLLS can help you do that. It only takes a minute.

Stop. Look. Listen. Smell.

It works. It’s effective. It makes you more relevant and present and helps you connect to what’s going on in the room.

Stay present in the chaos and until next time, I’ll see you on the rooftop.

Scott Mann is a former Green Beret who specialized in unconventional, high-impact missions and relationship building. He is the founder of Rooftop Leadership and appears frequently on TV and many syndicated radio programs. For more information, visit