Google has rendered the “Yes Man” of the 21st century obsolete. Not the “Jim Carrey Yes Man” we discussed in our blog last week, but the traditional “Yes Man” of the 20th century; the “Yes boss, good idea”, “Yes client, I can get you exactly what you want” kind of yes man. An individual with a computer can get facts almost instantaneously. Blind, unthinking execution and verification is a rapidly diminishing requirement. If you want to provide value in this economy, in this “instant knowledge access world”, you need to provide insight. You need to develop ideas; hone them and fine tune them, expand upon them to create something greater than that which was originally presented to you. Jack Welsh is quoted in John C. Maxwell’s brilliant book Thinking for a Change as saying,
“When your boss asks you a question, that question should become the jumping off point for several more ideas and thoughts. If you want to elevate yourself, you must sink your thoughts and time into not only answering the question, but going above and beyond it to add value to the train of thought your boss was on.”
Thinking for a Change, page 17.
We couldn’t agree more.
The Big Idea
Think your way to a raise
Three years ago, leadership guru Robin Sharma coined the phrase “Lead Without Title”. His belief is that we all have the ability to be leaders in our lives, regardless of our role in our company, family, or social group. While Sharma has written entire books on the subject, the pertinent point to our conversation is this: leaders consciously think about the direction they want to take their organization. They plan, and then intelligently execute that plan from a place of purpose and direction. John C. Maxwell’s book, Thinking for a Change offers eleven key types of “thinking” that can be harnessed to not only provide direction, but to get the most out of your day to day interactions and events.
Here are a couple of his introductory points:
Move Beyond Step One
“Don’t ever be too impressed with goal setting. Be impressed with goal getting.”
Thinking for a Change, page 31
Intelligent thinking is more than just planning. Imagine being responsible for building a house from scratch. Absolutely, blueprints and proper design (planning) are crucial. You can’t expect to build a house without them. To get the house built properly though, on budget and on time, just as much thinking (or more!) needs to go into sourcing materials, hiring the right crew(s), managing those crews and accounting for “worst case scenarios”. Good thinking is a continual process. Planning is great as a first step. To get things done though, you need to think your way through the details, the key players and potential pitfalls.
The thinking that will provide you with your greatest return requires you to goes on step even further. (Doesn’t it always?) Once you’ve thought through the process and what’s required, identify the areas that utilize your personal strengths. If you’re a leader, look for the leadership opportunities. If you’re a “bottom line thinker” focus on areas relating to the main purpose or objective. These are the aspects of the job that you can make the biggest difference in. For the areas that you are perhaps lacking strength, identify other people who can lead those initiatives. Bring people in who can ensure success on the project. Focus on your strengths, fill your weaknesses.
The Regular Habit
“Rarely do ideas come fully formed and completely worked out. Most of the time, they need to be shaped until they have substance… they have to ‘stand the test of clarity and questioning.”
Thinking for a Change, page 40
Thinking is an activity. As such, it requires a time, a place and certain materials to be executed properly. Where do you think? And when? Is your thinking space properly lit? Do you have the right materials to capture your thoughts?
Inspirations and “flashes of genius” are great. But they’re rarely whole. They need to be massaged, discussed, advanced and (occasionally) scrapped. Some of the best ideas take time to incubate and grow; they need to be revisited regularly. Can you imagine an entrepreneur who created a business plan once, and then never again went back to it for review or adjustment? How long would that person stay on track? Maxwell suggests scheduling regular “thinking time”; an uninterrupted span of several hours, a couple times a month, to think. Regular sessions to reflect on the successes and challenges of the last couple weeks, and make sure they provided as much value as possible. What did you learn? What can you share from those experiences? How can you build on the experiences and compound the results? Additionally, that thinking time should be used proactively to get the most out of the weeks ahead. What do you have scheduled? Who are you meeting, and with what purpose? What do you want to learn, share or accomplish? Gaining clarity on the purpose of your activities will provide results that may surprise you.
Reading John Maxwell’s Thinking for a Change is somewhat like having a personal coaching session with the man. The book is insightful and anecdotal, littered with quotes from some of the great thinkers of the last hundred years. Each chapter is recapped through a series of basic questions and exercises designed to educate the reader on their own strengths and weaknesses in the eleven identified styles of thought. I don’t often find a ton of value in completing the exercises in hard copy books, but these ones have intrigued me. It’s fascinating to realize all the various forms of positive thought that one can partake in, and that all are master-able simply by training your mind and allowing yourself the time to develop. Thinking for a Change is a great reminder that the difference between adequate and great contributions is often simply a matter of taking a step back and thinking. It’s an easy thing to say, and another matter entirely to actually do (and do regularly). Thinking for a Change provides not only the motivation to do so, but the tools to help you make the most of your pursuits.