Why we have too few women leaders

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite. Women Leaders systematically underestimate their own abilities.

She focuses on three things women must do in order to stay in the workforce and make it to the C-suite.

  1. Sit at the table
  2. Make your partner a real partner
  3. Don’t leave before you leave

Feedback Moments can Lead to Root Cause Solutions

One of the things we talk about in our practice is the importance of accepting, and in fact, seeking out feedback, both positive and negative. Without feedback, you have no idea of how your project, idea, or behavior is impacting others. Feedback is also an important part of your strategic plan, for without it, you don’t know if you’re progressing down the right paths to achieve your future desired outcomes.

What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall GoldsmithMarshall Goldsmith, in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, talks about looking for feedback moments as a method for improving your personal behavior. Here are some of the ways he suggests to get feedback by paying close attention to how others react to you both verbally and physically.

1. Make a list of people’s casual remarks about you. For one day, write down all the comments you hear people make about you, both positive and negative. At the day, review the list to see if there are areas you need to address. Do this for a week, both at work and at home and see if there is a pattern that you need to change.

2. Turn the sound off. When you enter a meeting, observe everyone as though you couldn’t hear them. What are they doing? Where are they sitting relative to you? Do they make eye contact with you? Look for the subtle behaviors that might be obscured by their voices. Get to meetings early so you can see where people sit and how they acknowledge you when they enter the room. This will give you important feedback about what they think of you and areas where you may need to improve your interpersonal skills.

3. Complete the sentence. Pick one area where you want to improve; then list the positive benefits you’ll get by improving in that area. This method will help you get at the root cause of the behavior you want to change. The first few sentences will be more corporately focused or correct, but by the time you get to the fifth or sixth sentence, you’ll start to get at the heart of the issue. Keep doing this until you have no more sentences to complete.

Getting at the root cause of a problem

This last exercise is an excellent one to do with a team when problem-solving an issue. Go around the room and have each person complete the sentence, writing each one down on a flip chart. Continue doing so until everyone runs out of sentences to complete. Then review the sentences and see if there is a pattern or theme that is actually the root cause of the problem.

Once you’ve identified the root cause, you can begin to work on resolving the problem by asking, so it this is the root cause, what do we need to do to change it? Ask each person for ideas and write them on a white board or flip chart. Prioritize the answers in terms of 1) what can be done immediately, 2) what can be done in the next 3-6 months, and 3) what can be done in a year. If there are costs associated with the solutions the team has chosen, identify them, or assign someone to research what the costs will be.

Focus first on what can be done immediately; identify specific tasks for each solution, and assign a person to lead each one. Once the most pressing solutions are completed, focus on the next list of those that will take 3-6 months to complete, and so.

This way you have identified the root cause of a problem, the solutions to resolve it, and taken action to create change.

Volunteer Burn-Out is a Non-Profit Dilemma

Takeaways: 1) Age demographics and volunteer burn-out are dilemmas for member-based non-profit organizations, 2) Why clear and concise communication is paramount, 3) Why change must be embraced with a revolutionary approach.

Member-based non-profits inherently are subject to the dreaded disease of volunteer burn-out. As I scan the world for member-based non-profits and consider their membership age demographics, two things are crystal clear.

First, the most obvious one is a seriously older demographic, from the few members left of those who were adults in the mid 1900’s to the huge population of baby-boomers worldwide.

Second,  very few of those organizations are working really hard at recruiting and engaging new members of ages 25 to 45. Those that are, struggle to connect across the generational chasm that has generally tripped up humanity for centuries.This has deepened in the last 170 years with the rapid cultural changes brought on by technological advancements.

Balancing planning with action is a common struggle for non-profits, and if they are membership-based, perhaps even more so. This may be more evident among organizations that are 30 years or older, but it also affects those that are newer and have instituted some mature processes and structures.

I am looking at two very worthy member based non-profits. One is experiencing continued success but mild growth in membership. All of its programs are very well received by the communities it serves and its members are overwhelmingly deeply engaged. The other is experiencing membership decline, slow action among its leadership, a lot of activity in planning for the short and long term, and is struggling with its value proposition and member engagement. The first one is over one hundred years old, the other a respectable 15 years young.

A common thread I find in successful organizational development continues to be that of clear and concise communication. Communication of vision, values and goals in a timely and simple manner continue to be the key ingredients to successful member engagement. Why? Because it provides key support and direction to the leaders of the local groups to keep everyone moving toward the same overarching goals.

I see a number of aspects to what I call The Maturity Dilemma. One is that mature member-based organizations generally have a long-established way of doing things that worked for their generation of members. This creates a culture that is comfortable for that age group but likely misses the mark with other age groups. Another aspect is human nature’s normal resistance to change. Throughout our lives we have been taught to seek long-term conformity and stability, in spite of things changing around us all the time. We are not taught to thrive in change and therefore continue to hold this aversion to it. We have not developed the skill sets to thrive in change. So the organizations we lead tend to suffer from the same shortcoming.

Like all systems in the world, yet another aspect to this Maturity Dilemma is entropy. Our member-based non-profits are becoming so comfortable in our “way of doing things” that we simply never respond to the changes taking place OUTSIDE our organization.

I propose that like nearly all for-profit organizations, we must stay more in tune with our “markets” and our external environment. We must establish the processes and structures that will embrace change and help us thrive. We must, in a word, become “revolutionary” from within.

What does that really look like? To me it looks like making change happen fast, like in most revolutions. It looks like planning quickly, acting decisively and being prepared to adjust quickly to the changes we are creating. It looks like we must rapidly evaluate how to leverage the positive results of the changes we make and just as rapidly mitigate the negative results of those changes. It looks like we must not fear failure but instead react quickly to correct it.

I am not suggesting this is easy. In fact it is counter-intuitive to human nature and how we have been taught. We have to be, as author James B. Swartz so eloquently put it, “Seeing David in the Stone”, a reference to the courage displayed by those who pursued a vision without a manual to show them the way. We have many, many tools at our disposal to start us on our way. Planning strategically or tactically is key among them, but balancing that planning with rapid, decisive action is what will win the day. Forcing ourselves to maintain that balance will also drive us to communicate those plans in a timely and concise manner, thereby short-circuiting the entropy that creeps up on our organizations in uncanny mimicry of Alzheimer’s Disease.

If you would like to discuss this topic further, please contact me. My expertise in accelerated change management and deep knowledge of non-profit organizations may be helpful to you!

Effective communication is key

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.

Excerpts from Eric Barker’s column, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Time.com
I have long believed that most problems in work and life are due to in-effective communication. What one person says and what is actually heard and interpreted by the listener are often two different things. When neither one checks to make sure the communication was properly understood, problems occur. Sometimes, they’re just small irritations. But other times, this ineffective communication can lead to major misdirection of efforts and even costly mistakes.

In his column Eric Barker provides 10 tips to ensure your communication is clear and well understood.

Simplicity
“Unless you speak the language of your intended audience, you won’t be heard by the people you want to reach.” In other words, you need to know how they interpret certain words. They’re past experience and cultural background may change the entire meaning of what you intended.

Brevity
“Be as brief as possible… The most memorable political language is rarely longer than a sentence: I Like Ike”. Too often we drone on in an effort to be clear when all we’re doing is creating more confusion or telling someone how to do something instead of just asking to be sure they understand how to do the project.

Credibility
“The words you use become you — and you become the words you use.” Always speak the truth. People will eventually find out if you’ve been hiding information or telling only part of the story to change its tone and meaning. Be truthful and open in your communications.

Consistency
“By the time we begin to recognize and remember a particular message, it has already been changed… “The breakfast of champions” tagline for Wheaties was first launched back in 1935 and is still going today. Hallmark’s “When you care enough to send the very best” debuted in 1934.” Consistency is the key to everything. Companies that change their tag lines every year lose recall value. If it’s working, stick with the same message, otherwise you will confuse your audience and they’ll forget about you.

Novelty: offer something new
“In plain English, words that work often involve a new definition of an old idea… What matters most is that the message brings a sense of discovery. Wow. I never looked at it like that!” Enough said.

Sounds and texture
“A string of words that have the same first letter, the same sound, or the same syllabic cadence is more memorable than a random collection of sounds.” The word coined by Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins is a good example. It’s memorable because of the cadence: supercalifragilisticexpialidotious.

Speak aspirationally
“Personalize and humanize the message to trigger an emotional remembrance.” Tell a personal story as an example of the message you’re trying to convey. If it’s emotional it will be more memorable. When working with clients to create a vision, we often tell the story of the janitor who was asked what he was doing. His response was, “I’m putting a man on the moon.” Now that’s a vision!

Visualize
“Paint a vivid picture. The slogans we remember have a visual component, something we can almost see and feel or hear.” The prior example does just this. You can see the space ship soaring towards the moon.

Ask a question
“Sometimes it’s not what you say but what you ask that really matters.” Verizon’s Can you hear me now? is such a memorable tag line. We remember it because we ask this question almost daily when talking with someone on our mobile phones.

Context and relevance
“Give people the “why” of a message before you tell them the “therefore” and the “so that.” Most of us need to understand why we’re being asked to do something. We want to know there’s a greater purpose and how we contribute to that. It’s a motivating factor, as many studies have shown.

Watch the Daniel Pink Ted Talk video on The Puzzle of Motivation for more insights about what motivates us.
Daniel Pink -  The Puzzle of Motivation

 

Innovation Comes from Collective Creativity

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Innovation is about unleashing the creativity at the bottom to encourage truly innovative ideas and solutions. Rethink leadership roles as those of connectors, social architects and aggregators of ideas. Act your way to the future rather than plan.

Linda Hill, Management Professor at Harvard Business School, shared a TED Talk based on her book, Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation. Over nearly 10 years she and three colleagues observed innovative leaders up close in several countries to determine what it is that made their companies innovative. The bottom line, she said, is that we need to unlearn what we’ve been taught about leadership.

 Invert the organizational pyramid

Innovative leadership is not about creating a vision and getting your staff to implement it. It is about managing collective creativity, amplifying conflict and discourse without unleashing chaos. You have to turn the organizational structure on its head and unleash the creative genius from the bottom up.

Innovation, said Hill, is about creating a space for three capabilities:
Creative abrasion
Creative agility
Creative resolution

Creative abrasion is about having heated, constructive arguments to create a portfolio of ideas. People learn how to actively listen and also how to strongly advocate for their position. Innovation rarely occurs unless you have both diversity and conflict.

Creative agility is about continuously testing and refining your portfolio of ideas. Instead of creating a strategic plan and implementing it, you “act your way to the future” through discovery-driven learning. This includes design thinking where the focus is on running a series of experiments, not a series of pilots. Test and refine. Test and refine.

Creative resolution is decision-making that combines opposable ideas to reconfigure in new combinations that produce useful solutions. It is patient, inclusive decision-making that allows for “both/and” solutions to arise, not just “either/or”.

Innovative organizations like Google and Pixar allow talented people to play out their passions by having multiple experiments running in tandem. Teams form and re-form as needed and everyone has access to the leaders at the top.

“Leadership is the secret sauce”, she says. Leading innovation is about creating the space where people are willing and able to do the hard work of innovative problem-solving. It’s about building a sense of community – a world to which people want to belong – and building those three capabilities described above.

What can we do to make sure all the small voices, the disrupters in the organization, are heard?

As Google has done under Bill Gate, you nurture the bottom up. Be the social architect that encourages discourse, differing viewpoints and multiple ideas, no matter how far-fetched. Bestow credit in as broadly as possible. Pixar, for example, includes the list of babies born during a film’s production in the credits at the end of each film.

Bill Gates encourages people to co-create with him while preventing them from degenerating into chaos. His role, according to Hill, is to be the human glue, a connector, an aggregator of viewpoints.

As innovative leaders we need to redefine our leadership role – not by title, but by function: role model, coach, nurturer. We need to hire people who argue with us, not those who agree with our viewpoints.

Instead of providing all the answers or solutions, leaders must “see the young sparks at the bottom as the source of innovation. Transfer the growth to the bottom. Unleash the power of the many by releasing the stronghold of the few,” says Hill.

If only the multi-state bank and the newspaper I worked for earlier in my career had done this. I recall my first month of training at the bank. I was sent out to a branch office to study how it operated and produce a report. One of my suggestions was to increase the salary of the tellers since they were the first line of contact with the customers and they frequently were responsible for million dollar cash drawers. Yet they received the lowest salaries and had no voice in the way the branch should work with customers.

At the newspaper, I frequently offered ideas which were squashed because that “wasn’t the way we do things around here”, or they jeopardized the power of the few. Never mind that the old ways weren’t working any more. I tried to implement innovative leadership techniques among my own small staff, but that was hard to do when no other departments, let alone other managers in my department, were doing anything similar.

What a breath of fresh air to hear Linda Hill talk about how really innovative companies turn the pyramid on its head! Give your staff at the bottom the opportunity to rethink their jobs, to offer solutions to everyday problems they face, and as Hill says, “create the space where everyone’s slices of genius can be unleashed and turned into collective genius”.

Watch the TED Talk. Buy her book. Change your thinking about leadership.

Mindfulness Helps to Build Leadership Skills

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Being mindful of what you say and do leads to better communication and clarity of thought and actions. Mindfulness is similar to following the Five Agreements, which help you focus on being present in the moment and being conscious of the words you use to communicate your thoughts and actions to others.

While reading articles about mindfulness techniques I was reminded of the book, The Fifth Agreement, by Don Miguel Ruiz and his son, Don Jose Ruiz.

Mindfulness suggests we be conscious of our thoughts while we walk, while listening to others, while sitting quietly and meditating. Being mindful can mean the difference between saying something in the heat of anger or stress that you wish you hadn’t and taking three deep breaths to calm yourself before you speak. It means thinking about the words you use and how they might be received by others – before you say them.

As a leader, practicing mindfulness helps to make you more aware of your surroundings, of what others are saying and doing. By slowing down your mind, you see the world around you more clearly. You spend more time in the present, rather than in the past of future, caught up in your thoughts.

The Fifth Agreement bookIn their book, The Fifth Agreement, the Ruizes talk about the importance of following the five agreements:

Be Impeccable with your word – always speak with integrity, saying only what you mean. Don’t participate in gossip. Carefully choose the words you use that most clearly express what you are trying to say.

Don’t take anything personally – remember that what others say and do is their own reality, not yours. By not accepting their words and actions as true about you, and telling yourself it’s their reality, not yours, you create a shield against verbal abuse and suffering. Imagine you live and work in a magic bubble that no one can penetrate except those you let in deliberately. Keep your true Self safe.

Don’t make assumptions – this is so hard to live by. Ask questions to dig deeper. Don’t assume you understand what someone is saying. Their interpretation of words may be totally different from your own and can create misunderstandings. Repeat it back to them to gain clarity and understanding.

Always do your best – give 100% of your time and effort to everything you do. When you finish a project, ask yourself, “Did I do my best?” Even if you didn’t get the sale or generate the results you anticipated, did you put your best effort into it? Sticking to this agreement forces you to work and act with deliberate intent, to prepare for every meeting or project, to be present and mindful of your actions and your outcomes. When others see you giving 100% or more, they are motivated to do the same.

Be skeptical but learn to listen – don’t take anything you see and hear as the only truth. Ask yourself “is it really the truth?” Sometimes we say and do things based on past experience or beliefs, which may no longer be applicable. When you begin to think and act as you always have, stop and take three breaths. Then ask yourself, “is this still true or am I acting from past beliefs?” This is being mindful and present about your actions. Question yourself and question others to gain clarity about the true intent behind the words.

If we all followed the Five Agreements and concentrated each day on being more mindful of our words and actions, we would experience better communication among our staff and colleagues. As leaders, we would set an example for how to behave in an organization. This can help to slowly change the culture from one of finger-pointing or acrimony to one of accountability and clarity of purpose. We might even create a “fun” work environment. Try these techniques, and let me know what results you get.

Trends for Managing Change in 2015

By Eric Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Review of ten trends for managing change in a practical context. Think more clearly about the impact of the trends. Consider if any external help can improve your performance. Refocus on the speed of change and the need for greater agility in adapting to changes.

While conducting a quarterly scan on trends for the next two to three years I came across a brief SlideShare presentation by Dennis McCafferty in CIO Insight, titled Ten Execution Trends for 2015, which you can view by clicking here. The overriding theme in the trends he mentions is that while planning is always extremely important, flexibility and agility in executing your plans is becoming much more important in order to overcome the challenges of doing business. This piece focuses on the IT issues of organizations but the trends mentioned affect managing all aspects of all organizations. These are the trends:

  • Real-time planning is mission-critical
  • Leading indicators take on greater prominence
  • Project management tackles enterprisewide tasks
  • Cultural difference foster collaboration
  • IT takes a seat at the “Influencers” table
  • Agility dominates
  • The “Organizational Surfer” rules the day
  • Everyone’s a designer
  • Value trumps all
  • Just do it

We see greater importance given to future trends over research on past trends. We see the increasing need for a holistic approach to how projects and initiatives are planned and executed. We are reminded of the value of embracing cultural differences in fostering collaboration. IT now wields greater influence overall on the organization. The increased speed of change in general is driving us to delegate the execution of projects more thereby increasing agility, and as a by-product, provide Millennials with a more attractive work environment.

We also see a return to the concept of “roving staff”, which I experienced in banking in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, now called “Organizational Surfers”. This was also common in large organizations with a group of employees who would “sub” for line staff, such as tellers, on vacation or sick leave, but are now found at all levels in the organization. There is also a notable increase in cross-functional collaboration and training in design thinking to extract great ideas from everyone possible in the firm regardless of whether those ideas pertain to their work or department.

Creating value for the customer is now job #1 over cost containment and problem solving. The final comment of the piece is titled “Just Do It!” It points out the danger in over-thinking things to the detriment of simply getting them done, thereby “staying ahead of change”.

Do your executives and team leaders have the skill sets to make the proper adjustments on the fly? Have you identified the leading indicators that will help you focus on future trends? Are your projects managed in a silo or are they directed with an enterprise-wide view? What initiatives are you implementing if there are multiple cultures in your business or you have an international presence?

At what level of your organization does your head of IT sit? For that matter, ask the same question about HR, Design, R&D, Safety and Security. Are your leaders capable of managing and even accelerating change with agility, and how are you including your younger staff members in the process? Are you creating a cadre of line staff, managers and executives that can support different functions either executing initiatives or performing training and coaching?

Is your organization capable of extracting creativity from folks other than those whose job is to design products and services? How are you gauging, measuring or tracking your leaders’ contribution to creating value for your customers and your stockholders?

Each of the 10 trends mentioned in the SlideShare piece broadly addresses issues that are clearly compelling to nearly every organization. Which one or ones compel you to make them a priority and how will you gather support in skill development and coaching to accelerate the effectiveness of implementing your initiatives?

I invite you contact me if you wish to explore how we might be able to assist you.

Leadership: Cheerleader, Coach, Dictator & holding people accountable

By Eric Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International  November 16. 2014

Takeaways: Compare three common leadership styles. Coaching as a leadership skill for business leaders. Eight “Be Attitudes” to help you maximize your ability to hold your team accountable.

Sometimes leaders display confusion about some very basic ways to be a leader. One we often encounter is an individual who consistently focuses on cheerleading-type activities, often ignoring other types of reinforcement, both positive and negative. They praise their team for their hard work and mention how much they appreciate them, but the leader is not working off any sort of plan with measurable results. How do you think the team members really feel about how they are being treated? Truly valued, or perhaps just being snowed? Granted, cheerleading is important since it ensures both the leader and the team members are reminded that celebrating successes is very important. But imagine a sports team that consistently has a losing record and is constantly being told what good job they did when the results say differently. At least in sports there is a scoreboard clearly identifying measurable results. What measurable results and programs for celebrating success do you have for your team?

Coaching skills are valuable

Coaching skills in business leaders have become one of the most valuable traits we can employ in leading teams. Coaches facilitate the team’s individual and collective success by first understanding very deeply what drives the team and ensuring the team is extremely clear about the desired outcomes of their work. Coaches also facilitate the maintenance of a shared set of values. There have been many very visible sports team coaches over the years whose success is legendary, as has their toughness with their team members. When we look closely at their styles in leading their teams, it’s clear they leaned much more toward facilitating their teams’ success instead of commanding or demanding it. Their toughness comes through more as having an uncompromising commitment to a system of values that helps keep the team members focused on their outcomes. This also distinguishes successful business and government leaders.

A dictatorial style of leadership has historically ended both abruptly and badly, for the dictator and the team being led. Regardless of whether a leader was leading a government, a non-profit, a commercial enterprise or a sports team, we consistently see a pattern of the team coalescing in support of the leader, high levels of energy toward the objective set by the leader and uncompromising pressure toward objectives set primarily by the singular leader. This is later followed by some thoughtful sub-leaders naturally questioning their direction, then external pressures rapidly growing against the leader and finally a relatively complete destruction of the organization and often the leader. Consider short lived sports teams, athletic teams and whole leagues involved in unsportsmanlike activities, many leaders of nations and yes, many leaders of large and visible businesses. Companies like Enron and Lehman Brothers, Arthur Andersen and Washington Mutual all displayed many of the characteristics of dictatorial leadership, straying from best practices in management and pursuing unrealistic and massively exaggerated objectives. They also knowingly violated generally broadly accepted tenets of law and human behavior holding team members accountable to very narrowly defined results and little accountability to a shared set of values.

Holding people accountable and leading them to achieve mutually desired and measurable objectives may just be one brief way to describe a successful leader. Of course, it’s not necessary that simple. I am reminded by the eight “Be Attitudes” of holding people accountable put forth by Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, a respected Fortune 500 senior executive, author and CEO of Leadergrow, Inc.

He lists those attitudes as:
•    Be clear about your expectations
•    Be sure of your facts
•    Be timely
•    Be Kind
•    Be Consistent
•    Be Discrete
•    Be Gracious
•    Be Balanced

Bob Whipple of LeadergrowIf you would like to gain more insight on these attitudes you can do so at the Leadergrow, Inc. website.

Developing and applying successful leadership skills are keys to succeeding in any type of managerial endeavor, but in leading strategy and change these are even more critical. How good are you at practicing the eight “Be Attitudes”?

Social Media Has Changed How Leaders Lead and Act

A World Gone SocialIn their new book, A World Gone Social, Ted Coiné and Mark Babbit share real-world stories and examples of how companies are embracing social media as a platform for building customer relationships and engaging staff. Not just small companies, but Fortune 500 companies. (Coiné is one of the World Strategy Week panelists.)

During an Interview with Ted Coiné and Mark Babbit, Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach, asked about the life of employees and how social media has changed that.

“Social media and mobile devices that have enabled us to leverage social media have made the 9-5 mentality irrelevant. It’s gone.” said Babbit.  The 9-5 work day is gone thanks to our new always connected, 24/7 world. While a few people still follow the traditional work life of commuting to an office and working their 8.5 hours and then commuting home again, the majority of us are actively engaged in “work and life” almost all the time.

Social has changed the way employees engage with their leaders. The old business school model of ÿhr leader is in charge and knows all the answers” is no longer valid. According to Babbit, “especially for us males, we see ourselves in that role of knowing everything; women, on the other hand,” says Babbit, “have had that figured out a long time ago. They were much more democratic in their leadership. They were much better listeners, and much better engagers.” This helps to “empower” employees, Nasser says in the interview. “Becoming a social leader means relinquishing power and knowledge. It’s scary for leaders and portends a complete shift in how leaders think and act and lead,” says Babbit.

Keys to improve your strategic thinking

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International  April 2014

Takeaways: Improve your strategic thinking to stay on top of your game. Surround yourself with people who think differently in order to broaden your perspective.

It’s easy to get lost in routine and forget about constantly improving your game. One of the ways to do this is to constantly improve your thinking. According to Shaun Rein, author of Three Keys to Improving Your Strategic Thinking, published on Forbes.com, the easy thing is to only read and listen to people who think like you. But by doing that, you surround yourself with a group of “yes” people and you don’t gain the necessary insights from contrary thinkers.

In his article, Rein lists three keys to improve your strategic thinking. These are:
1)    Constantly question your own opinions. Don’t always assume your opinion is right. Listen to others and be open to consider another viewpoint. Read the opinions of those who criticize your viewpoint to see if what they say has merit. You may be surprised and find a nugget of truth that might change your opinion.

2)    Don’t just read articles by these contrarians; surround yourself with people who think differently. Whether you are a leader in a large organization, the head honcho, or an entrepreneur, it’s important to gather trusted advisors and staff who offer differing opinions about world views, marketplace opportunities, and business prospects. Choose people from seemingly disparate fields for periodic discussions around a specific theme or focus, such as the state of China’s economy.

3)    Finally, he says, it’s important to recharge your brain and your body regularly. We know the importance of taking time every day to exercise, as well as take extended vacations away from the office, computers, and your smart phone. Rein suggests taking a trip somewhere where the people are different – a different culture and language. Even doing simple things like volunteering weekly at a soup kitchen will force you to re-think your life’s priorities and recharge your brain.

Regardless of our level in an organization, as leaders it’s important that we challenge our own thinking and status quo. Otherwise, we end up in a rut and we limit our own potential.