Thinking Strategically, Thinking Critically

Have we lost our ability to think strategically, to analyze, to dissect facts, and make thoughtful, intelligent decisions? This article, How to Encourage Critical Thinking in the Workplace taps some important factors organizations must consider to thrive now and for decades into the future. Author of this article, Paul Crosby, points out, “Despite the demand for critical thinking, several hiring managers believe it’s lacking in the current workforce. However, critical thinking isn’t necessarily a skill that modern employees lack, but rather a skill they seldom use.”

“Thinking strategically is not an unrealistic expectation; neither is it a mind boggling process or age dependent, writes at the Association for Talent Development. What really limits strategic perspective is a reliance on habit, past practice, and limited expectations.” – Mary Lippitt

Here are a few reasons why critical thinking is forgotten in the workplace and how managers can help bring it back. Continue reading How to Encourage Critical Thinking in the Workplace here.

The referenced article, How to Encourage Critical Thinking in the Workplace, was first published at the Business Analyst Blog on August 24, 2017



First Things First: Tips to move you forward

When you have a to-do list the size of Montana, how do you tackle it? Do you have a fail-safe practice that garners favorable results consistently? Today’s tasks seem to multiply yet the hours in each day are stuck at 24. These tips can help get you centered and on track toward getting things done. What else can you add to help readers who struggle with too much to do? This could be the help you’ve been looking for.

When I whittle down my To-Do list, it feels terrific. However, the joy disguises the unpleasant fact that those finished items may not have been the ones most important to complete. On a list, everything appears equally important and it is easier to tackle a simple or non-essential task. In my pressing desire to get something done, I frequently overlook what is critical, what is outdated, or what has lost its importance. I justify diversions as motivational momentum to keep going, but that’s not what should dictate task selection.

Too often the time I spend on minor tasks sidetracks me from doing what is most important. I accept admonitions of “keeping your eye on the prize” or Stephen R. Covey’s (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) to do “first things first.” Yet, I can procrastinate. While Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind can decide to think about things tomorrow, I should not. The pace of change in the 1860s was leisurely.   Certainly, this is not the case today. Now, time matters since windows of opportunity close rapidly and risks mount. Quick response to critical issues is a necessity. Would you want a doctor to address a patient’s broken finger before attending to a blocked windpipe? Priorities and sequencing action are critical. Triaging a situation is not only good medical practice, the discipline works for all of us.

We all need to reassess what must be done first to ensure delivery of the desired result. This means resisting the temptation to quickly dash off a response without a full analysis. United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz’s, first reaction to a passenger being dragged off a plane on April 9, 2017, was incomplete, insensitive, disrespectful and later regretted. He damaged the brand and spurred Congressional hearings.

Consider the following triage concepts for your To-Do list:
  1. Confirm information and assumptions to prioritize what must be done first. Not everything is a number one priority.
  2. Take a proactive role to prevent significant issues from escalating into a crisis. Early intervention pays dividends.
  3. Recognize recurrent firefights and search for a cause, rather than repeatedly addressing symptoms. While it feels good to put out fires, preventing them is much wiser.
  4. Accept that you cannot successfully multi-task challenging issues. Critical issues deserve your full attention and creative thinking.
  5. Know what to cut from your To-Do list and challenge the necessity of new tasks. Many issues are mundane and should be delegated or canceled.
  6. Concentrate on adding value for the long-term. Attention to customers must come before busy work or administrative trivia.
  7. Employ out-of-the-box thinking and mental agility. Today’s problems cannot be solved by yesterday’s solutions.
  8. What would you add, that has worked well for you?
There are only 24 hours in a day, so use them wisely. Concentrate on achieving your goals and the actions that move you toward them. Learn to say no to wasteful pursuits and distractions so that your time is optimized. You will reduce stress and achieve better outcomes.

This article was first published by BizCatalyst360.

Top 4 Mistakes Women Make in the Workplace

The road to the C-suite is littered with well-meaning, well-qualified workers who never quite get there. So what is the difference-maker?

Executive coach and consultant Dr. Mary Lippitt has worked with hundreds of leaders, from Fortune 500 executives to top Pentagon officials, and she’s conducted research on thousands of people to study how they make choices.

Bizwomen spoke with Lippitt about some of the top mistakes women make in the workplace — and what they could be doing differently to boost their profile and career prospects. Here’s what she said:

MISTAKE #1: Making yourself indispensable in your current role.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Train your future replacements.

“Make yourself absolutely indispensable in your current position and people will move around you to keep you there,” Lippitt said. She recalled a woman she once worked with who was in charge of the budget. She held tightly to the responsibility and was the only person who knew how to do it.

“It seemed like the right thing to do — to make yourself indispensable — but it actually made her irreplaceable. So the bosses kept her in that role until she retired.”

“It was the kiss of death,” Lippitt said. “If nobody on your staff knows how to do some of your work, you’ll never get promoted. Part of your job is planning for your replacement.”

MISTAKE #2: Climbing the corporate ladder in a silo.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Look for new ventures within the company.

“Women today need to think beyond the traditional career path,” Lippitt said. She calls it “stepping out to step up.”

Lippitt once gave a speech at Harvard University’s Women and Power Conference. After giving her presentation, Lippitt asked women in the crowd how they advanced their careers. Many of them boosted their profile by pitching an idea and carving a new career path within the company.

“One woman in tech came up with a new product line and became the product manager for it,” Lippitt said.

“A banker said she identified a new service, completed an analysis and then showed the results to her bosses, asking to lead the new operation if they wanted to move forward with it. They did, and that role was the banker’s ticket to the executive ranks.”

MISTAKE #3: Using tenure to advocate for yourself

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Focus on the value you’ve added recently.

“When it comes to angling for a raise or a promotion, many women make the mistake of assuming tenure will make all the difference,” Lippitt said. It’s the ‘I’ve been here [x] years and it’s my turn’ mentality.

“But while that argument worked in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, it doesn’t resonate anymore. Today, it’s all about the value you’ve produced recently, especially in the last six months. Paint a picture of your impact lately.”

MISTAKE #4: Silently succumbing to group-think.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Ask thoughtful follow-up questions.

“In an increasingly specialized world, groups are more prone to accept the thoughts of an expert at face value,” Lippitt said — even if they need to be challenged.

She once worked with a company run by a charismatic CEO. He’d recently rolled out an initiative he called “Empower. Free. Serve.” The phrase appeared everywhere, from company name tags to banners hanging in the cafeteria, but the chief executive told Lippitt the initiative wasn’t working.

So Lippitt talked with the company vice presidents. The problem? No one knew what the phrase meant.

“Empowered to be freed of red tape to serve our customers?” one replied, when Lippitt inquired.

So during a staff meeting, when Lippitt was supposed to be presenting her findings, she asked the CEO to outline what “Empower. Free. Serve.” meant.

“We’re going to empower the people to shop seven days a week instead of six,” he replied. “We’re going to free them from having to come to stores. And we’re going to open new distribution centers to get there faster.”

Lippitt said there’s a simple way to speak up or challenge an idea without painting yourself as a contrarian: Ask for specifics in a collaborative, supportive way.

For example, “This sounds very promising. I want to understand a little bit more. Let’s take a look: Are there any potential risks associated with it?” or “I like that idea. Can we dig deeper?”

“You don’t have to have the answer to the problem to speak up,” Lippitt said. “It shows you’re a valuable team member. And when you’re helping an organization avoid a pitfall, you’re seen as a key player.”

“Real power,” Lippitt said, “is adding value to the company.”

First published:

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