April 29


Shake Up Your Own Thinking

By Sara Canaday

April 29, 2021

career, career success, emotional intelligence, leadership development, professional development, professional success

If you want to play a bigger role in the evolution of your company’s growth and success, there’s a mandatory step in the process: shake up your own thinking!

Steve Miller, former CEO of Shell Oil Co., was well known for shaking things up. As Shell was rebranding in Europe, he invited a group of employees to join him on an unusual bus tour.

The invitees? People from accounting, IT, marketing, operations, engineering, and administration. Company veterans and new hires representing 25 countries.

Traveling together, this unlikely crew visited many of the organization’s retail locations to observe and provide feedback. In between stops, they’d climb back on the bus to talk about what they saw.

Miller knew that everyone in this cognitively diverse group had physically looked at the same thing, but they all saw something different. The engineers started talking about pump capacity and customer safety issues. The marketing people discussed the impact of signage and point-of-sale promotions inside the store. The IT people had questions about the cash register software and its ability to wirelessly sync with the product-inventory database.

The end result?

Miller gained a richer, deeper view of the organization’s business function by bringing together the vastly different perspectives provided by this group. The exercise required time and money, but it generated priceless information that helped the company make a swift and positive transformation.

Have you inadvertently gotten caught up in the daily grind of your management role with little thought on how to contribute innovative and fresh ideas? Here are five things you can do to shake up your thinking:

1.     Change your scenery.

If you’re feeling stuck on solving a problem, switch up your environment. When I need to get my creative juices flowing, I take my laptop and head to my back porch or a local coffee shop. You’ll be amazed how different sensory input can stimulate your brain and help you uncover new possibilities.

2.     Update your playlist.

What you listen to shapes how you make sense of the world. If you always listen to the same podcasts or sign up for the same webinars, you are likely feeding your own cognitive bias. Branch out and listen to some people whose very goal is to disrupt conventional thinking. Need a few suggestions? Try “I Might be Wrong” (Justin Foster and Juan Kingsbury) or “On The Brink” (Andrea Simon).

3.     Expand your view from the inside.

Look for opportunities to experience different facets of your organization first-hand. Enroll in a rotation program that gives you exposure to a variety of roles in diverse departments. Or, if it’s appropriate, temporarily shadow someone from another division. You’ll come away with a broader view of your company’s overall operations, which is valuable feedback you can also share with your team.

4.     Add an “outside” mentor.

If your current mentor is someone in your own company or industry, search for an outsider who can stretch your thinking and prompt more creative solutions. That’s a fast way to gain some fresh perspectives and begin looking at things from a different angle.  

5.     Take on the persona of a bold leader you admire.

Over time, we develop our own approaches to strategic thinking and problem-solving, and our minds use those short-cuts to get things done efficiently. The next time you are faced with a challenge, imagine how it might be handled by someone known for successfully shaking things up. What bold choices might that inspire? Step out of your comfort zone and give them a try.  

Leaders who are willing to shake up their thinking have a serious advantage in today’s complex business climate. Are you among them?

Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

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