We all know that there is value in being physically fit – you have more endurance, you feel stronger and your body’s immune system keeps you safe from disease. But, let’s apply that same concept to mental conditioning and see where it takes us.
While the importance of mental conditioning is widely recognized in the world of sports and even in combat situations – think about how Navy SEALs train to develop mental strength for combat – its importance is not as widely recognized when it comes to leadership in the workplace.
We are all familiar with games like Sudoku, in which a player’s mental dexterity is tested and sharpened. But how are we testing and sharpening mental dexterity in the workplace? We know that performance at work depends on the way we use our most powerful tool – the mind. Just as physical conditioning prepares us for fast recovery from injury, mental conditioning prepares us to respond quickly to new events, discover new opportunities and navigate complex situations.
Being intelligent replaces mentally fit is not the same as being “smart” – although he was extremely smart replaces brilliant, most organizations would not have welcomed the absent-minded Einstein as their CEO. Instead, organizations are seeking leaders who can lead during tough times, adjust quickly to new realities, and accurately manage risk to achieve brilliant peak outcomes.
For optimum results, we must coach and prepare train leaders to use analytical processes that will help evaluate uncertainty and opportunity. As I discuss in my latest book, Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity and Complexity, such a process can be taught using six business mindsets, including innovation, growth, structure, profit, culture and strategy.
While the job of a leader might resemble (can feel much like that of) a hero coming to the rescue by fixing problems, in reality, a leader’s job is to analyze circumstances and avoid traps that could lead to bad decisions. Responses such as “I didn’t think of that” are not acceptable, especially because the cost of a bad decision can produce severe consequences. In addition the process of “feeding” leaders spun information, withholding potential problems and silencing concerned employees cannot be maintained.
Although organizations face unprecedented challenges, leaders do not need to be rocket scientists to be successful. The areas for attention are clear: We need to focus on innovation, customers, internal operations, quality and ROI, culture and talent, and vision and sustainability. Questions for each mindset encourage a full exploration of issues. While the actual questions may shift based on the level of leadership, having a process in place to examine the issues, prepare effective action plans and implement them effectively is critical. Hopefully, as we develop our future leaders, we will add mental conditioning for balanced and effective leadership to promote effective and wise leadership.
What do you think?