Leadership Competencies

How to make time for reflective thinking

Vistage speaker Gair Maxwell is known for delivering presentations that spur people to action. But after meeting with thousands of business leaders, Maxwell realized that, in today’s intense work culture, CEOs don’t always need to hear a message rousing them to action.

Instead, they need to be reminded of the importance of doing the exact opposite.

“Seems like the entire business world is so busy these days worshiping at the altar of action and execution,” says Maxwell, “that they have forgotten the equally important need for reflection and exploration.”

Without time for quiet thinking, CEOs risk entering an endless cycle of prioritizing short-term goals over long-term strategy and vision. This, according to Maxwell, is exactly what put companies like Sears, Kodak and Blockbuster on the “road toward irrelevance.”

Reflective thinking is the one thing a CEO cannot outsource. To make it a priority, Maxwell recommends doing these four things.

1. Schedule time for reflection

Choose one day a week that is dedicated to critical thinking. Brain Scudamore, the founder and CEO of O2E brands — the parent company of 1-800-Got-Junk? — devotes every Monday to reflective thinking. You can do the same. Block your calendar, shut off your phone, and give yourself the time and space to think about your business.

2. Get out of the office

Many of us do our best thinking when we’re active and close to nature. So, go for a run, hike a trail, walk your dog or have a picnic. If you’re not able to get outside, make time to go to the gym or walk around a museum or art gallery.

3. Read a book 

Many of the most successful CEOs are avid readers. Warren Buffet spends 80% of his day reading, while Bill Gates reads over 50 books a year. But if you really want to prime your mind for creative thinking, put down the business book and pick up a novel. Reading fiction is a great way to reduce stress, sharpen your focus and open your mind to new ideas. 

4. Take a retreat

What do you do when you need to get your whole team together to think about the direction of your company? Rather than a booking a conference room or hosting a happy hour, go off the beaten path and plan a corporate offsite. There are resorts that specialize in creating corporate programs that appeal to a range of interests — including art, adventure, sports, food and wine tasting. For those that really want to push the boundaries of their creative thinking, The Wizard Academy in Austin, Texas, is a world leader in hosting and facilitating executive strategy sessions.

Category: Leadership Competencies

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Vistage Staff About the Author: Vistage Staff

Vistage facilitates confidential peer advisory groups for CEOs and other senior leaders, focusing on solving challenges, accelerating growth and improving business performance. Vistage member companies grow 2.2x faster than the average U.…

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