Operations Strategy & Implementation

Get Results - Fast
Your Coup d’oeil is showing

Your Coup d’oeil is showing

While reading for a course I am taking, I came across a term that gave me pause for thought – “Coup d’oeil”. (pronounced ‘coo dwell’) Literally translated from French, it means “Stroke of the eye”, or in general, a glance or a look.

However, theorists from several different centuries have taken it further, and used it to describe a strategy, or ability to see things at a glance. (if you really want to dig into that chunk of meat- check out the notes at the end). I won’t get into it, but basically great generals tend to have it.

Indeed, after reading more about the term, I would even sum it up more simply – in that a coup d’oeil is “a summary glance in which meaning is drawn”.

Ok, fancy pants. What does that mean?

Ha ha… I think I even impressed myself with this one. It means – in one look, you can see beyond what’s there. Reading between the lines. Seeing things that others don’t.

So… what does it mean to say your coup d’oeil is showing? I’ll ask you to give it some thought as you go through the ways you can improve your leadership by strengthening your “coup d’oeil”:

  • You only get a first chance to make a first impression – You know how this ends. People take an average of 7 seconds to figure out who you are, or will be, to them (Goman, 2011). You do the same thing. What do you learn from that glance? Attitude, personality? Do they smile or make eye contact?


Using your “coup d’oeil”, or summary glance, take those items into account when meeting, cultivating and growing relationships. Be aware that you are making these snap judgements without even thinking about them. Be cognizant of the fact that these judgements of others may not always be right… and your perceptions can be directed more by YOUR own experiences or what’s happening in your life.


These perceptions could give your “coup d’oeil” a foggy perspective. Make sure to clear the lenses off to make sure you’re seeing clearly what’s really around you.


  • Knowledge is power. Learn it. Remember those “The more you know” commercials on TV years ago? There was truth to it. The more you learn or know about a situation, the more you can recognize patterns by experiencing situations, trying or experimenting – the better prepared you will be for the unknown.

Think of your local firefighters. You think the alarm going off ringing “Fire” is the first time they have fought a fire? Not by a long shot. They practice. And practice – they do drills – and do them in different ways – different problems – sometimes even different equipment (or maybe with some that doesn’t work).

The more you learn of different situations, the better you’ll be able to use your “coup d’oeil” to recognize a situation. Perhaps trying a different way to talk to your difficult employee – or working with a senior manager that always seems to have a cloud over his head. Maybe it’s trying a strategy that worked in marketing (and you’re in finance).

What can you prepare ahead of time that helps you recognize new (or challenging) situations faster – aka “coup d’oeil”?

  • Contrary to popular belief, your “Coup d’oeil” can be made (they aren’t just assigned at birth) – if you read deeply in the books on military leaders, you’ll find some folks that have said that generals that were great just knew things – they had insight that no one taught them, and no one else ever had.

Yes – people are born with talents. Some are better singers, some can make a mean apple pie without looking at a recipe, and others are natural leaders. The “coup d’oeil” is strong with them. But it can be strong with you, too. Just as you are developing your leadership of employees, peers and others – developing your insight can be done through experience, experimentation and practice.

Oh, and not giving up. You will most likely grasp failure once or twice – but your “coup d’oeil” strengths every time you use it.

I went a bit off my normal monthly conversations this time – but I think you need to every once in a while. You have to try something new – it may even take you somewhere new, too. 😉

Are there others out there? I still have questions and feel a bit alone…

Join the discussion on LinkedIn focusing on “New & Front Line Managers – Toolkit for Success” – you’ll meet others that are going through similar situations, or learning how to manage with others


Have a great week, and you’re on your way to being a better manager!

More about Coup d’oeil

  • Clausewitz, Carl von.  (1989) On War.  Michael Howard and Peter Paret, eds. and trans. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Handel, Michael I. (2001)  Masters of War:  Classical Strategic Thought.  Third, Revised and Expanded Edition.  London:  Cass Publication.
  • Fredrick the Great, (2005) Instructions for His Generals, Dover Publications; Mineola, New York.
Comments are closed.