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Dear Fresh Milk reader,

Once in a great while, usually in concert with a major presentation or book project, we ask readers to do something to contribute to our knowledge or perspective on a given subject. This is one of those times.

In the early stages of a new leadership-related book project, we're collecting data on the changing role and requirements of leaders (particularly front-line leaders) as we emerge from the current period of crisis. There are two (2) things we'd like your help with:

1. Take a short (really) 6 (7?) question online survey. Click here for the survey.
2. If you are aware of any organizations that are doing an especially good job of preparing 1st and 2nd level leaders to cope with the new business climate, we'd like to hear about them.

Thanks in advance for your cooperation, and, as always, for being a Fresh Milk subscriber.

Now, enjoy this month's article.

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.
1. Input
2. Processing
3. Output

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:
* Airplanes
* Coffee shops
* Public libraries
* Large hotel lobbies
* Places of worship (meditation is thinking)
* Convention centers (the vast empty parts that are open, but aren't being used much these days)
* The great outdoors: Surely there's a park near you. A wooded lane. A field. A balcony, deck, terrace, lanai, back porch, some place you can go without being arrested for trespassing, and where co-workers, kids, spouses, responsibilities, cares, bills, and other obligations can't trespass on your need - your right - to do some good, clear thinking.

"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.
2. List three important issues (one each of the 30 minute, 1 hour, and all day variety) that could benefit from your spending some good thinking time. Make the time. Find a place. Do the thinking. Record your thoughts, on paper, computer, or voice recorder, in a way that you can easily access and use them later. Make this a habit.
3. Give your team "thinking assignments". We're serious. Ask each member of your team to select a very specific problem that has been the topic of discussion at several recent team meetings. It's something that everyone is aware of, and most would like to have a solution for. It's OK if more than one person picks the same issue. Ask each person to think about the problem, and then the following specific considerations:
* its possible causes
* a few of the less obvious, but very real, effects the problem is having
* a handful of doable responses that might solve the problem.

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.

Perilous times demand extraordinary leadership.

Are you struggling to manage the fear and uncertainty your employees are experiencing as a result of the current global economic crisis?

Are you being asked to balance cost cutting measures, potential layoffs and other major organizational changes against employee engagement and higher productivity?

Are you stuck in neutral, unsure how to lead in such times?

If so, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden can help.

Our new keynote presentation, "Leading Through the Storm", provides specific tips and techniques to help you lead successfully in uncertain economic times, and to get the most from an enthusiastic and engaged workforce.

It's a message of hope, of realism, of optimism, and of practicality. Your audience will learn:

* At least six ways to keep people fired up and focused in difficult economic times.
* Tips for building and maintaining a reputation as an employer of choice - which is critical, even in times of higher unemployment.
* Strategies and examples from real organizations, and real leaders who are getting it right.

Find out about bringing Bill or Richard to your organization. Contact Geoff Knue at 317-873-0011, or
We administer employee satisfaction surveys, and analyze, interpret, and present the results to your leadership team.

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.

Visit us online, or simply contact us, to learn more about our survey process and how it can help to make your workforce a powerful competitive weapon.

Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC

phone: 904-720-0870
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