The way you think as a leader can leave gaps in the way your business and working relationships develop. With awareness and know-how you can adapt your thinking mindset to suit the task in hand, writes Jesse Sostrin for Strategy+Business.
The fast pace of contemporary business rarely allows time for dynamic reflection, so thinking on your feet is a daily reality for most leaders. Being able to choose the best thinking strategy for a particular issue can make a huge difference to outcome.
Are you more inclined towards the analytical, the practical, the relational or the experimental? Each of these approaches has its place, and we all have an individual mix of them. Knowing how to tap into each when appropriate will give you a powerful toolbox for managing people, projects and priorities as the need arises.
Here are three key strategies to help bring your thinking skills up to scratch:
1) Identify which kind of thinking comes most naturally to you. Analytical minds are firmly rooted in reality, tend to use logic and be driven by numbers. The more practical among us are task-driven, organised, and focused on operational plans. Relational thinking makes you more empathic, engaging with others and expressing yourself, while experimental minds are more curious and expansive, using their imaginations to push boundaries and generate original ideas.
Reflect carefully and honestly about which of these sounds more like you, particularly when you have a tough decision to make. Sostrin calls this your “sweet spot”, basing his reference on Herrmann International’s Whole Brain model.
2) Pinpoint the elements lacking in your thinking strategies. We all develop unique patterns and habits, and thinking is no different. It’s easy to get stuck in our ways, especially if they have underpinned our initial success. Priorities and problems change as a business develops and grows but, according to Hermann, only two per cent of people demonstrate thinking with an even balance of analytical, practical, relational and experimental elements.
You can develop a better ratio by analysing your thought patterns when a project went wrong. Were you too inflexible in your planning? Did you pay too much attention to others’ opinions? Or did your let your imagination get carried away? Being aware of your gaps will open your mind to alternative thinking.
3) Consider the ideal thinking response for the scenario. Now that you are more aware of your default thought processes, and those that come less naturally, you can make a conscious effort to get your thinking into shape with a more diverse approach. Take time to do this at the beginning of a project. Don’t leave it until you are under acute pressure – that’s when you are most likely to revert to the norm.
“Regardless of the situation, it’s the pivot toward an alternative thinking style (or blend of styles) that can make the difference between frustration and positive results.”
Once you have your own thought mindset on track, you can encourage your teams to follow suit, taking small steps together towards a thinking strategy for your whole business.