Summer thinking for leaders

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” Colin Powell

Maybe you won’t have a lot of time to loll around the pool or tromp through the woods this summer.  But you know you should.

I’m just back from vacation, where I relearned that the first week is necessary, but the second week is the one that refreshes.  Second-week-vacation thoughts are full of possibility and inspiration.

You already know that if you’re not taking time to reflect on your direction and the direction you’re giving your team, you’re not doing your job as a leader. A good friend has written a treatment for too much activity and too little direction-finding.  It’s not a vacation or a quick fix.  Maybe you’ll spend five minutes on it.  But it is simple enough to refresh our purpose as a leaders.

  • Choose a provocative quote.  You may have one hanging over your desk.  No?  Take a look at this great list from Mike Maginn at ManagerZine where he also suggests ways to use this idea with your team.
  • Sit still and read.
  • Half think about it.  Let your mind wander a little.  Giving it all your attention is likely to lead to thinking about right answers, actions you should take, who’s to blame, or recrimination that you haven’t done anything bold recently.  Try not to give that half of your thinking too much attention.
  • When you notice you’re starting to think of things to do, turn your attention back to the quote.

Here’s the quote that caught my attention:

“Successful institutions almost always develop strong cultures that [become] an enormous impediment to the institution’s ability to adapt.”  Lou Gerstner, former IBM CEO

What I thought on my summer vacation

Adaptation is where vitality comes from, usually emerging unexpectedly and upsetting some of the good, hard work we’ve done.   At the same time people want clarity and a sense of their own competence.  It takes new skills and emotional muscle to adapt day after day, suffering the uncertainty, ambiguity, and missed cues that go with not knowing everything and not being sure.

What quote will you use to spark summer thinking?

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