One of the real challenges of leading, especially in today’s fast-paced 24/7 environment, is taking the time to “hear yourself think.” We listen to others, we read up on the latest trends, we review the numbers . . . we take in all kinds of data every day. And while understanding the data is important, it’s not enough. It is the layering of that information among and through our experience and context and perspective that yields the transformative ideas or innovative solutions. And to do that, you have to turn down the volume on everything else.
The trouble is, our picture of an effective leader rarely involves turning down the volume. It’s being available, and responding, and tackling the to do list … being productive! It’s similar to how some people can’t relax at home because they always see three more things that need to be done. To really relax, they have to be somewhere else. For me, to “turn down the volume,” I have to leave the office. Luckily (?) for me, our organization is located on the far edge of the state, so any statewide meetings I attend usually requires hours of travel time. No stacks to tend to, no interruptions, no meetings, usually not even a radio … Just me and the symphony of thoughts and ideas going on in my head.
Granted, a peaceful walk in the woods or relaxing next to a cracking fire might be a preferable way to listen to and sort through my thoughts, but hey, you take the breathing room wherever you can get it! Trust me, it’s worth the effort when the synapses start firing. Taking the time to sort through the tangle of “what ifs” in your head can reveal promising solutions that were sitting there all along, just waiting for you to come visit. But the ideas aren’t going to shout above the urgent crises of the day, and you can’t simply schedule 15 minutes for deep thinking (at least that’s never worked for me!) Nope, you have to intentionally carve out chunks of time … whether that’s on planes, trains and automobiles or, for the more disciplined among us, in a creative environment of your choosing.
The great ideas are in there, and if you slow down long enough to listen, you can almost hear them shouting, “Can you hear me now?” Maybe it’s time to listen up.