I once heard an associate make this statement: “The most important business and marketing tool we have is the one between our ears.” I can’t improve on that, so I’m stealing it with his permission.
Business success is often more of an art than a science. The objective elements of an enjoyable, profitable endeavor are obvious; a worthwhile product, a productive team, and a solid sales and marketing program are all mission critical. What many business leaders miss, however, are the subtle intangibles.
Take time to think
Overwhelm is a killer. By my observation, most leaders suffer from the tyranny of the urgent. They don’t understand the dramatic impact it has on their bottom line.
In trying to grow their business, they busily examine their product, their team, and their processes. All too often the real problem is not in the tangibles of doing, but in the lack of clear thinking. More particularly, the culprit is typically found in two areas; too much “doing,” and information overload.
The balance sheet doesn’t spell it out, but leadership ability is diminished by the lack of quality “think time.”
The solution to overwhelm is found in the power of better thinking.
Information overload is at an all-time high. The digital world streams an over-abundance of information, much of which is useless. Leaders look for new and better ideas to help them improve and grow. Truth be told, we have no shortage of good ideas. We suffer from a lack of effective execution. It’s too much information without quality processing time.
Too much doing, not enough thinking. Busily applying themselves to tasks, leaders are typically under the illusion that they are productive. In fact, they are more likely to be slaves to random urgencies that keep them from thinking creatively, prioritizing well, and tasking other capable people.
When is the last time you actually scheduled for yourself quality, uninterrupted time to think?
Think well, lead well
It’s been said that everything rises and falls on leadership. While success actually has several components, there’s a point to be made here.
The way we think, or fail to think, has an impact on our leadership ability.
Healthy, profitable organizations require high performing teams. High performing teams require effective leadership. Effective team leadership first requires self-leadership, born of higher quality thinking.
When taking regular time to think well, you will discover the kind of strategic value that makes a difference; not just in your bottom line, but in the enjoyment of the enterprise. We’ve noticed, both in ourselves and others, several benefits to quality “think time.”
- Clarity of vision and purpose
- Well-defined, sensible priorities
- Higher quality decisions
- More thoughtful, gracious, effective leadership
Become an integrated thinker. Neuroscientists reveal the way our brains work. We know, for example, that the left and right hemispheres of the brain have different functions. At the risk of over-simplifying, we offer this general description.
Your “left brain” controls sequential, linear thought. Analysis and logic, for example are processed there. In contrast, your “right brain” is the visionary innovator. Each person has, in varying degrees, a dominant side. The most effective leaders become “integrated thinkers,” nurturing both the cognitive and the instinctive sides of their thinking.
Know yourself, appreciate others. A general understanding of brain hemispheres, and how your own brain works, is helpful. But it’s only one layer of the puzzle. Learning and processing preferences are another layer. It’s become common knowledge that each person has their own leaning style. Some, for example, learn well by reading. Others by listening. Many need to get their hands on something physical.
The same is true in working and processing information. Some are fast on their feet and thrive under pressure. Others perform better at a slower, more predictable pace.
The most effective leaders understand their own style and the style of others. They then surround themselves with complementary talent and build high performance teams.
Pay attention to self-talk. Another layer relates to the thoughts we entertain throughout the day. It has to do with the way we think about ourselves, our circumstances, and the people around us. The narratives we create have an important impact on the way we manage ourselves and lead others.
Self-limiting beliefs and negative self-talk create terrible unseen barriers to success. Leaders who are otherwise highly talented, are severely limited when they fail to take charge of their self-talk.
One of a leader’s most important tasks is to create an environment where people make their best contribution. Because so many business processes have become commoditized, culture is now one of the few elements that makes a strategic, long-term difference in profitability.
When a leader creates a healthy culture, both individual and team performance are lifted to higher levels. The following story illustrates why we place such a high value on culture.
Case in point: I have worked with one particular client in the manufacturing sector for the last several years. The principle, a committed Christian, often expressed his deep appreciation for the values he found in the Bible. Together, we decided to take the bold step to develop his business culture around those values.
That shift was a game changer. Team members now make a better, more rewarding contribution. The results have been clearly seen in revenues, profits, and some very satisfying awards. We also notice this: when the team gets away from the values of the culture, productivity suffers.
Optimize your brain power
Your brain is a complex and powerful tool. That’s no secret. Optimizing its performance requires a multilayered approach. It involves proper rest, food intake, and mental habits. One of the most effective elements relates to the practice of mindfulness. We have also discovered the great advantage in getting input from highly competent advisors who offer an objective viewpoint.
Practice mindfulness. Dr. Dan Fazio is a local expert on holistic health. The term “mindfulness” has a pleasant ring to it. It sounds nice and easy. It is nice, but not easy. It takes practice and discipline. Dr. Fazio outlines a few of the basics on the subject of mindfulness.
- Be present in the moment. The benefits of undistracted work come with a payoff, but it’s easier said than done. Neurophysiologists tell us that multitasking is actually “relaying” between tasks. We are naturally wired to focus deeply on the task at hand. Multitasking adds unnecessary stress. Sharper focus results in higher productivity and a better work product.
- Develop the habit of gratitude. It’s not about being irresponsible and ignoring negatives that need to be addressed. It’s about constantly recognizing the good things around us and being thankful for them. When gratitude is a bigger part of the landscape of our thinking, we are less affected by negativity. The result is think and solve problems more effectively.
- Observe reverence for the moment. This refers to appreciating the nuances of the moment we are in, especially as it relates to people. It’s partly about treating human interactions as something more than just verbal transactions. The result is enhanced collaboration and a higher performing team.
Practice digital decompression. We talked about taking time to think. That also means getting away from digital media on a regular basis.
- Decompress daily. This isn’t just about information overload. It also has a great deal with the science of rest. Studies show that there’s a direct relationship between the exposure to certain kinds of light and the circadian rhythm. Ideally, our bodies, minds, and sleep cycles work better if we shut down digital devices as the sun goes down. As a practical matter, Dr. Fazio suggests that we generally shut down electronics two hours before bed.
- Do an occasional extended “fast” from digital media, and media in general. It’s not easy to suspend a daily routine. But taking an entire day, or several days, is a worthwhile endeavor. The benefits are wonderful; a much clearer head, and a greater feeling of restfulness.
Get input from others. For many years Simply Successful, LLC and Experts 4 Entrepreneurs have operated by a principle that’s summed up in one simple phrase: Don’t Fly Alone. We know from experience that entrepreneurs typically play to win. But they’re so close to the game board, that it’s tough to see the risks and the best moves from a higher-level viewpoint.
Some of the best leaders we know are highly effective because they understand the strategic value of surrounding themselves with exceptional people. That often includes outside advisors who offer the kind of perspective and expertise that makes the big difference.
How will you tackle your most important business growth challenges?
Most of our clients enjoy a degree of success. But they know there’s a great deal more to accomplish. That’s why Simply Successful was created; to help you thrive.
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