Buzzword Alert: Multi-Thinking

NOTE: I don’t like buzzwords, so if someone has a non-buzzwordy way to say “multi-thinking,” I’m all ears.

As leaders, we’re good at stuff. We have strong track records doing things like problem solving, communicating, process development. But we’re not good at change, given our 33% success rate.

The Change Paradox teaches us why: The things that make us great as leaders every day—things like, well, problem solving and so forth—those same things can make us terrible as leaders of change.

Let’s isolate the skill known as problem solving: We solve problems all day long—“Whom do we hire for this job?” “How will we deal with that copyright infringement?” “What to do about this accounting treatment?” “How do we dump that bad supplier without getting sued?” Solved.

But when we try to solve a problem that’s going to lead to a real business change, and we get together with other leaders (others who got into leadership positions because we all were good at solving problems) and we solve the problem ourselves and hand that change down to everyone else…when we do that, it’s top-down change…it’s not our people’s idea…so our people push back (even if they smile and nod while they hide their shock). The change eventually fizzles out.

The same goes for our communications skills, our process focus, our action orientation, our deep business knowledge…all these good things we’ve been praised for for so long—they can kill us if we think about them as our everyday work, instead of thinking about them in the very different way we must when we’re leading change. It’s a paradox.

So what to do? Do we stop doing great things altogether?

No…we still do them, but we broaden our skills by learning how to multi-think. We must be conscious when we solve everyday problems, and when we ask our teams to help us solve change-oriented problems (or opportunities).

It’s almost like we have to change hats throughout the day. We’re headed to a meeting involving a change, we wear one hat. We’re headed to a meeting involving an everyday matter, we wear our other hat. That hallway conversation about an everyday item: one hat. That hallway conversation 10 seconds later about a change topic: the other hat.

It’s that simple. And that hard…very hard.

Let me know what you think. I look forward to being in touch.

Al Comeaux

Primed for Change Community

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