Didn’t you know you had to think?

Didn’t you know you had to think?

Didn’t you know you had to think?

When you are under pressure, perhaps to make a major decision for your business, perhaps to decide how to handle an obstreperous late-teen child, you take the obvious way out – whatever is the short-term solution even if it’s only temporary.

When in danger of impending death or injury that is right but we have come to accept short-term as right for almost all decisions. It is why the world is going so dramatically wrong.

Pressure / stress are big causes of stupid decisions. Senior people are always under pressure, always suffering from stress. But they are senior for a reason. They have been promoted to their top jobs because others trust them to work intelligently. A recent client’s experience illustrates the point perfectly.

James is mid-30’s, successful, ambitious, married with two young children. He had done what was expected of him in his previous jobs and his company, broadly in the media business, wanted to keep him. So they promoted him to be boss of one of the most important profit-making businesses in the group. They knew that that he was well trained technically but didn’t bother to find out how good a profit-centre manager he was. ‘Throw him in the deep end; he will swim’, they said.

James did not swim. He kept going to his boss whenever a decision of any importance had to be made. He simply couldn’t break the mould of being a subordinate He didn’t think he had to think. He sought our help. We saw two problems that could be addressed. First, his tendency to see things only from his point of view. This was proving disastrous in his relationships which, as with all management jobs, required him to sell changes and ideas.

We all think first of ourselves. It is natural. Indeed, selfishness is the jungle survival kit. But we are not developing a jungle. We are making a society fit to live in. We still need to survive and there are plenty of big beasts out there ready to pounce on us. Our success as a species is that we got out of the jungle, developed a conscience, discovered fairness and set about making the sort of world we wanted to live in.

Look through history and you will see that this was created by people who, for whatever reason, wielded influence and could make decisions that were then imposed. So wasn’t James right to go to his boss for every decision? Absolutely not. Not thinking was James’s second big mistake. He forgot that he – and you and I – wield a lot of influence now even if we only do it through Facebook, LinkedIn and other online portals. We, all of us, are the top people of today. Voting systems may not be very democratic; the social media truly are.

What was the solution to James’s problems?

We helped him develop a passion of curiosity, a genuine interest in everyone and everything. When you are curious you ask questions – of other people but also of yourself. It takes a bit of getting used to and needs some disciplined practice but anyone can do it. We also got James to mentally compete creatively with everyone he was talking to. This produced many ideas and lots of laughter, a big contributor to a successful business.

The jury’s still out on whether James can do it. We have no doubts that he will.

Can you say the same for you? I do hope so.