monthly newsletter from Break Free Consulting
Thinking About Thinking
Great leaders understand what Galileo meant when he said:
"One cannot teach a man anything.
One challenge we face as leaders is that we are always looking for the best people to have on our teams. Yet, the more successful a person is, the less you can (or should) tell them what to do, and the more you can only help them to think better for themselves.
After all... "Ideas are like children, there are none so wonderful as your own." (Chinese Proverb)
So, our challenge is to help people to think for themselves, while so many times our own thinking gets in the way*. I mean, everyone knows that your idea is usually (ok, always) the best idea... after all it is YOUR idea, right? So, if your brain figured it out in a certain way, it must obviously be the RIGHT way.
To further complicate matters, science tells us that no two brains are alike. While your solution will (obviously) work best for you, for some reason it may not work best for others. Many times as leaders we prescribe methods for people instead of providing them with the end goal and allowing them to think through their approach to reach that end.
Why is it so important for leaders to allow their team members to think for themselves? The science of how our brain works provides some of the answers.
(*If you'd like to find out which of your thoughts processes may be getting in the way of your ability to lead others, click on the free assessment link on the left.)
Cognitive neuroscience explains that our brains crave patterns and search endlessly for them. Our brains are connection machines. They love to find links, associations, and relations between the bits of information that we have stored up there. Our thoughts, skills, memories, and habits are immeasurable sets of these connections or "maps" joined together by complex chemical and physical pathways.
So every thought, memory, or skill that you have is a complex map of connections between different bits of information stored in the vast areas of your brain. When you are trying to think or process new ideas, you are actually searching your "wiring" and trying to come up with connections that link your previous ideas to your new one.
Your brain craves these new "maps". You will notice when you are creating one because certain physical reactions occur:
(1) You will probably stop speaking and start picturing ideas and concepts in your mind.
(2) Your eyes may become glazed over and you'll have a 'far off' look as you reflect.
(3) You'll have the sudden feeling of 'aha!' - this is when the maps have made the connections and come together to form a new idea in your mind.
(4) You then feel motivated to act on your new idea - even if that action is just writing it down so you don't forget it.
Now, hopefully you won't feel as motivated as Archimedes did when, while thinking in his bath, he discovered how to solve a scientific problem. It is reported that at that moment, he ran (ok, streaked) into the streets yelling "Eureka!"
So, what does all this talk about maps and wiring mean to you as a leader, a parent, a manager?
Most of the time when we are trying to help someone think through a problem, we automatically make the unconscious assumption that they think the way that we do - that their wiring is the same as our wiring. So we put their problem into our brain and come up with their solution. Then, we are shocked when they don't get it or don't understand because it is so obvious to us that we have their RIGHT answer. Well, we do have the right answer if only they had our brain! (Note: Giving them your 'right' answer may actually trigger the error messages in your brain that we've discussed in the last newsletter. This would cause them to have an "amygdala hijack".)
What it comes down to is this... Doing the thinking for other people is not just a waste of our time and energy, it prohibits other people from working out the right answer for themselves.
Changing the way that people think is one of the toughest challenges of leadership. Therefore, as a leader, what should you do? Here are a few helpful hints:
(1) Become passionate about improving the way people think, not what they are thinking about.
(2) Do your best to help other people do their own thinking. Try to get your ego out of the way and step back far enough from the problem to look at the person and lead them to solve their problem.
(3) Any time you feel yourself about to tell another person what you would do or share your experience with them... STOP!
(4) Instead, ask them questions, about the solution, not about the problem. Allow them to make their own connections in their mind between their experiences and their ideas.
Until next time, remember this quote by Sir
If so, contact me to find out more about the 6 Advisors Assessment report.
This ground-breaking, scientific assessment measures your thought processes - Your 6 Advisors™ - and your current capacity for successful thinking. It is as ground-breaking and vital as MRIs and X-rays to the healthcare profession. The assessment accurately answers the question: "Which of my thought processes can support my success and which thoughts are sabotaging my success?" Our research and experience clearly shows that very few people know the answer to this fundamental question until they take this assessment and take the time to review their report.
Try working with a coach. We use a powerful coaching practicum that is customized to your individual needs. At times you will be discovering and maximizing underutilized strengths. At times you will be taking on challenging thought processes that have been sabotaging your efforts. As the weeks progress, you will become more and more in control of the only thing in this world that you can control - your thoughts – your 6 Advisors. The result? You should experience more peace of mind and greater levels of productivity that will enhance your abilities to lead others.
Give me a call and let's discuss how coaching can help you!
(It's a great way to start off a New Year... on the path to achieving your goals.)
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-Scott Irwin, CEO, Apex Pipe, Houston, TX
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