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A Penny – Maybe More — For Your Thoughts?

by Amy Burkett |

Here’s a question for you.  How much thought do you give to your thoughts? 

I confess there was a time in my leadership journey when I never considered my thoughts. You’re making a big mistake if you think there’s only one kind of thinking. I’ve always been a pretty positive person, but I didn’t even realize I could become more strategic in my thinking and be a more effective leader until I read New York Times bestselling author John Maxwell’s book, How Successful People Think.

In it you’ll learn about the 11 thinking styles Maxwell believes are critical for us to truly become good thinkers. Space limits me to three of them now.

Here’s my challenge to you: Take a week and truly dissect your thinking.

How many thinking styles do you implement daily? Our leadership benefits from our ability to use all 11. With intention, you can be ready to take part in the decathlon of thought, but it won’t happen without training for the race.

Chances are you can name right now your favorite thinking style. It’s probably the one you’re best at. For me, it’s a tie between bottom-line thinking and possibility thinking. Possibility thinking helps me be a good problem-solver. Isn’t that the core of what a leader does? I’ve often said my title should be “PROFESSIONAL PROBLEM-SOLVER.” 

Maxwell’s definition of possibility thinking is “the ability to unleash your enthusiasm and hope to find solutions for even seemingly impossible situations.” That may or may not come naturally for you. What I love about it is that you can get better at it through practice. It’s not rocket science. It really doesn’t require any special skill beyond intention and practice and I know you can do that.

Now, let’s tackle bottom-line thinking. This didn’t come as naturally for me. Often my head would be swirling with a million different thoughts about a thousand different problems and I struggled to decide which to tackle first. I found exercising this muscle of bottom-line thinking produced extraordinary results.

Maxwell defines bottom-line thinking as “the ability to focus on results and maximize return to reap the full potential of your thinking.” I find that incredibly powerful. I tend to have a leadership bias for results, and bottom-line thinking gets me there. 

Finally, let’s explore my third favorite thinking style, questioning popular thinking. This is truly an art. I think Maxwell’s definition of this is genius: “It’s the ability to reject the limitations of common thinking and accomplish uncommon results.”

Uncommon results are a leader’s fuel to innovation. I bet you can’t name an innovation that didn’t start with someone questioning popular thinking. It’s how to build a better mousetrap. It’s why Blockbuster, a former video rental company, lost to Netflix. The sad thing is, Blockbuster had three chances to buy Netflix but its leaders didn’t question popular thinking.

If you’re old enough, you remember that Atari was one of the first gaming systems. It could have owned 33 percent of Apple, but it didn’t because company leaders there also weren’t good at questioning popular thinking. Then there was Kodak, the one-time leader in film for cameras. Kodak invented digital photography in 1975 but didn’t adapt and went bankrupt.

I hope you see how questioning popular thinking can make the difference between your company surviving, thriving or going out of business. 

Sorry, but you’ll have to go read Maxwell’s book for yourself to learn about the other eight thinking styles. Before I run out of space, let me give you some tips I learned from John Maxwell to help you improve your thinking every day.

  1. Focus on the positive.
  2. Gather good input.
  3. Spend time with good thinkers.

I hope in the future you’ll be able to say you give a lot more thought to your thoughts and you’ve exercised your thinking muscle so that you’re ready to compete in the thinking decathlon and to maximize your leadership.

Amy Burkett

Amy Burkett

is the host of WTVP’s Leadership Series, a multi-regional Emmy Award-winning journalist, author of The 7D’s to Your Destiny and a certified John Maxwell trainer, speaker and coach
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