Don’t Outsource Your Strategic Thinking Learn to Trust Your Own Judgment
Many times as leaders we skip thinking all together, or we make it a group effort, or even allow others to think for us and simply follow their lead.
While leaders must listen intently to others, they are also responsible for giving personal time to think about the direction, the big picture, and the strategy of the people they lead. Are you taking time to think?
New York Life’s CEO and Chairman Sy Sternberg, made this statement: “Don’t outsource your strategic thinking.” It has been consistent in my life that when I am disciplined to stop and think, I am more focused, productive, and successful in what I am doing. Here is how you can start this discipline today.
Practically speaking, what does it mean to stop and think?
It means to literally stop all you’re doing and start dreaming. I have wrestled with this discipline, but when I am most effective and consistent with intentional thinking, I do these three things:
- Commit to a weekly time goal for thinking. If you are like me, the demands on your time are great. So you may want to commit to one hour of thinking time per week. My current goal is five hours a week. I schedule it on my calendar and do my best to stick to it. This is a time when I am alone with my journal and computer. Once I choose a topic to think about, I take notes, I draw schematics, and I try to capture thoughts and build on them.
- Keep a thinking list. These are areas I’d like to give more thought to, issues to which the answers are not clear. Two months ago I started thinking on how we can introduce metrics into our organization. I literally spent five hours on this subject before I went back to discuss it with our key leaders.
- Divide the thinking list into categories. Here are my current categories:
Overall direction of my organization or team. Refining the overall plan and vision is something that must be done on a continual basis in order to stay relevant. Even if you do not wish to refine it, at the least, come up with new ways to communicate it to your people.
Creating better systems. Systems are what make a team or organization consistently successful. The opposite of systems is hap hazard, inconsistent action. Organizations who do well apply systems across the board. One example is the US military. They operate by routines, checklists, and customs—systems that have been put in place and are continually reformed.
Solving seemingly impossible issues for those I lead. There are very few problems that seem impossible to solve. But if you are willing to devote enough time and energy toward their resolution, solutions seem to present themselves as you take careful intentional time to think them through.
Personal issues: I categorize all my other thinking items that are not business or team related into a personal category.
Make Intentional Thinking a Priority
Don’t be led by others in everything. We must do our own thinking and then invite others to input into our journey, but not define it. We must lead, and that is done when we stop and shape our life and the direction of the team or organization. Mr. Sternberg added, “You move toward real leadership by becoming less dependent on others to do your strategic thinking for you. You move toward real leadership by demonstrating originality, independence, and confidence. How do you become leaders? The answer is simple: Learn to trust your own judgment. Learn to stand on your own two feet.”
For Further Reading: