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One of our all-time favorite training films is the classic "Brain Power", based on Karl Albrecht's book of the same title. In it, actor John Houseman ("The Paper Chase") tells the audience, emphatically, "You get paid to think!"
And if you think about it, he's right.
The very nature of organizations today, (in contrast with just a couple of generations ago), puts a real premium on thinking. Brain work, over brawn work.
Thinking is legitimate work
Before any of us can maximize our leadership potential, we must first wrap our heads around the notion that thinking is legitimate work. It adds value. And failure to think costs money.
Thinking - good, clear, productive, breakthrough kind of thinking, is hard work. Well, it is for us, anyway. We're not talking about musing, mulling, or daydreaming. But flat-out brain-racking, cogitating, conceiving, concluding, visualizing, comprehending, learning, analyzing, and figuring out. All that is hard work. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
During my career as a software systems analyst, a huge part of my job consisted of thinking. We called it "creating", and "developing", but it was thinking. One of the toughest career adjustments I ever had to make was that of being OK just sitting - and thinking. My boss and I knew I was working, but I had to admit that I felt a little guilty getting paid (don't worry - it wasn't all that much) to think.
Who's got time to think?
Thinking takes time. Deal with it. The best advice we can give to deal with it is this:
Give yourself - and those you lead - the gift of time to think:
Thinking is a three-part process.
The constant flood of messages, electronic, telephonic, and otherwise, to which we're subjected daily, provides a never-ending opportunity to receive input. But until and unless we make time to do the processing, our minds resemble a sink with the faucet running, and a clogged drain.
Make the time. Find the place.
For all its accessibility, for some of us, the one place that's probably the least conducive to productive thinking, is - our office. It's a natural breeding ground for distractions, teeming with phone calls, emails, texts, tweets, twirps, and all manner of demands, legitimate, and not, for our attentions. Even if you work at home, in an otherwise empty house, the diversions are legion. It's not always possible, but when you can, get away. You don't have to go far, but get away.
Get a room!
As is the case with a few other things, thinking is best done in private. There's simply no substitute for a venue that's quiet, comfortable, and free from distractions.
Each of us offices at home, but we do our
best thinking in less routine surroundings.
Here are a few suggestions based on places
that have worked for us:
"Go dark" to develop thinking on your team
While you're giving people the gift of time to think, give them something else - the freedom to think on their own, without the possibility of your intervention.
Just because we can be constantly available to our team members doesn't mean we always should be. It's good for them and for us to periodically (usually with advance notice) make ourselves unavailable for a few hours or days. No need to hide your intentions here. Tell them you'll be offline for the next however long. And that you have every confidence that they'll make good choices during the time that you, in essence, don't exist to them. Obviously you'll want to have prepared them to handle what might come up. After all, so-called "empowerment" minus preparation equals abandonment.
But if you've prepared the ground, planted the seeds, and nourished your team's growth, you should be able to walk away for a bit and let them think.
Each chapter in our book, Contented Cows Moove Faster ends with a highly prescriptive section we call Monday Morning 8AM. We plan the same feature for the new book we're working on now. Here are your Monday Morning 8AM assignments to improve the thinking that goes on in your work area.
Monday Morning 8AM
1. Identify three places, outside your
regular work venue, and that you can access,
that would be conducive to your thinking more
effectively. Then use them.
Give them the gift of thinking time. Suggest some of the venues we've listed above. Give them three days to complete the assignment.
Ask them to document their thinking, on all three of the above elements, and come back prepared to discuss with you their thinking. Be careful, though. The assignment is not to solve the problem. You'll need to emphasize this when making the assignment. Their task here is to think it through.
Good thinking to you all.
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Find out about bringing Bill or Richard to your organization. Contact Geoff Knue at 317-873-0011, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Especially in times like these, no organization can afford to operate without the full engagement of everyone on the payroll.
Our turnkey process provides a valuable and affordable way for you to measure your organization's effectiveness in the view of those who fuel your business with their effort, labor, and commitment.
Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC