Volume 1 Issue 1

If You Don’t Have Time to Think...
You Don’t Have Time to Lead!

Let's face it, yelling out: "I don't have time to think - follow me!" is not exactly the ideal charge from a leader. Unfortunately, for a lot of us, our behavior says precisely that.

How many times have we all wished for even a few moments of time each day just to stand back and think about the decisions and opportunities ahead of us?

The prospect of such luxury seems remote to say the least. Yet what a sad and unnerving reality that is. Senior leaders literally run from one demand to another. Some of you don’t even have control over your own calendar because, with the intention of being an “open door,” you gave everyone access to it.

A good friend of mine, the CEO of a multi-billion dollar international firm, looked at his schedule one day and realized that his life was totally planned out for the next two years – all determined by others. The realization that he was running one of the world’s largest organizations, but wasn't in control of his own time or life, was a major factor in him making a huge life decision to do something else.

Such frenetic craziness showed up in a different way for another CEO. Years ago one of my firm’s offerings was a “Committee Audit” in which we assessed the companies committee structure. We discovered that the CEO was, supposedly, serving on 47 committees! What kind of meaningful involvement could there possibly be? How much of your life do you want to donate to committee meetings? Like I say – crazy.

In Going Deep I suggest that a senior leader should be allocating 30% of his or her time to “thinking.” Out of a workaholic's usual 60 hour week, that would be 18 hours!

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve taken a lot of derision for this advice. “Totally ridiculous,” is how one executive put it to me. But when I asked him how much time he does spend thinking, he didn't have an answer.

Scary how many executives – claiming to be leading their organizations – don't schedule time to think, reflect or just let their intuition work. I don’t mean sitting in strategic planning sessions or capital allocation meetings. In my experience there is not much opportunity to think in most meetings. Lots of discussion, argument and debate maybe, but not much time for thinking. That’s why some of your best thoughts come to you about an hour after the meeting.

I am suggesting a scheduled quiet thinking time set aside every day. A time where you lie down on the office couch or put your feet up on the desk. Or go for a walk. A time where the phone doesn’t ring and your monitor is dark. A time in which you simply allow your marvelous mind to sort out your world and tell you what you need to know to lead your people to a new and better place.

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t admit that their best and most creative thoughts come “out of the blue” – while on a country drive, walking down the fairway, fly fishing, or even in the depths of sleep. One CEO, who loved to paint, set up an easel in her office and spent almost an hour a day painting. Of course, what she was really doing was creating a future for her company.

Take note that our most insightful thoughts come to us out of the context of work. Why should that be? Something doesn't line up here. Since we know what kind of context is most conducive to insight and wisdom, why don’t we create that context in the working day? Wouldn't that make a lot more sense than what most of us do? Most of us go home to think about our business! Now there is a brilliant idea. So even when you're at home you're not at home as far as your spouse and kids are concerned.

In the early 1900s, theologian Glenn Clarke wrote, “I believe with the great artists that all creative power comes from great stillness. If then, we just quiet and afterwards act, the action will go farther for there is alignment. We should not have to do much to change the whole world.”

Want to change the world? All you have to do is be quiet until you know what to do. It is in the quietness of our thinking and reflection time that the alignment of all things begins.

There is just too much political and intellectual noise in our day-to-day operational environment. Hence the phrase, “I can’t even hear myself think!”

If you want to hear the thinking and wisdom that is already going on inside of your mind and spirit, you have to go to a quiet place.

Here is my challenge...

Schedule in this thinking time as you would any other critically important meeting. If you just hope you’ll find time, you never will. We both know that. Tell your Assistant that this time is sacred and, short of a family or corporate disaster, is not to be changed.

Knowing that I’ll never talk you into eighteen hours worth of quiet thinking a week, I suggest booking an hour each day. If you are like me, you’ll spend the first thirty minutes muttering about what you should be doing instead of thinking and reflecting. Only then will you let yourself “quiet” as Glenn Clarke put it. (The letting go time will decrease as you get use to this idea.)

We are all different so you will have to develop a thinking and reflection process that works for you. I suggest that you just ‘let it happen’. If you make this into another task you will minimize its value. So, unless you are accustomed to some meditative practice, don’t worry about seeing white light, counting back from 100 or chanting a secret word.

Personally, I tend to think in diagrams or models and so have found it helpful to have a pad of paper and a pen near by. Idle doodles have a magical way of actually making sense after a while.

What will be the ROI from having a scheduled thinking time? Put in an hour and you’ll get a hundred hours back. Guaranteed.

Ideas will come to you that would not have otherwise. You will see current circumstances in such a different way that you will change your strategy in dealing with them. Your level of true insight will increase dramatically. And you will see incredible possibilities, limited only by your imagination, courage and faith.

And best of all – instead of solving last month’s problems, you will do more leading – visiting the future through your mind and intuition and then reporting back what you found. This, in turn helps your people prepare properly for a world that is about to be.

© The Ian Percy Corporation