COACHING OTHERS is a vital part of every leader’s job and the key to a leader’s success. After all having outstanding staff reflects beautifully well on the leader. And, part of that coaching process must entail developing critical thinking skills. Whether it is figuring out how to handle complex issues or assessing new opportunities, analysis and synthesis serve as the pivot between a great decision and a disastrous one.
We cannot accept falling back on past practice. We have to get out of our old grooves. But asking people to think critically or be more creative does not provide the guidance that is needed. Almost everyone wants to make smart decisions, the question is how.
What needs to be done differently?
We need to expand our mindset or frame of reference. Having a limited focal point or viewpoint narrows our thinking and options. Keeping our nose to the grindstone leaves little room for creative considerations and innovation.
The first step is to assess your current mental mindset, or set of beliefs that determine your thinking and then your actions. We cannot analyze what we do not see. We must expand our horizons by examining all six potential mindsets – as outlined in my new book, Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Complexity – and then find a way to weave together a smart plan.
The six mindsets generate new areas for investigation that might otherwise have been overlooked. Consider the following, each with a different mindset:
- What “outside the box” thinking can we tap?
- What will help our customer base?
- What systems need to be improved for better alignment?
- How can we reduce costs or improve cycle time?
- Are we developing our talent/bench strength to match our strategy?
- What best practices or after-action insights are we deploying?
We all fall into comfortable habits, and then are surprised when a new idea surfaces and we wonder “why didn’t I think of that.” It isn’t a matter of IQ but a willingness to see things from different viewpoints. When we drive we do not just use the windshield, we check rear view mirrors, side mirrors and even sometimes turn around to check if the coast is clear. Leaders need to do the same, check all points of view before embarking on an action plan.
Coaches help us explore how to see not only the path we are on but also additional routes to get us where we want to go. My goal in writing Brilliant or Blunder was to provide leaders with mental checklists to expand their perspectives, critical thinking ability, and sound risk management to ensure they make brilliant decisions.