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Leading a business or organization means guiding people to work together toward a unifying mission. A leader that is singularly focused on one path to reach their goal can miss a lot of opportunities and create a misaligned and perhaps resentful employee base. To lead most effectively, good leaders should reorient themselves away from their gut reaction and challenge their inner thoughts.

  1. Think outside the box: While this term is cliché and not at all new, Arbinger Institute’s “Leadership and Self-Deception” redefines what it means to be “outside of the box.” Being “outside of the box” means seeing and treating employees like people with hopes, aspirations, and perspectives. Often when we come across a setback in a project, we jump to the conclusion that the responsible person or team is to blame and even assign negative traits to them; “he has poor judgment,” or “she is lazy.” When a leader is focused on one specific result, he or she can lose sight of the people that contribute to the project- what each person on the team envisions for the outcome, their motivators and demotivators, personal strengths and weaknesses, and external factors that affect a project. When you step outside of your judgments and open up to the perspectives of your team, you can better see how to operationalize your organization, improve employee morale, and share the vision of the desired results.
  2. Prioritize important over urgent: Urgent things, like meeting an approaching deadline or handling a disgruntled client, need to be addressed right away. Important activities, like setting short-term goals, meeting regularly with employees, and doing practice runs, do not come with immediate risks or rewards but are critical in determining the success of your organizations. Stephen Covey explains this in detail in the timeless “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Many leaders have mastered the art of “putting out fires.” But by spending time on important tasks, leaders can reduce frequency of urgent ones. If the milestones you took the time to make have been met, you are in good footing when the final deadline approaches. If one of your top managers is out sick the day of an important meeting or if the phone is ringing off the hook other well-trained employees can confidently handle the situation. Taking the time to build strong relationships with employees helps establish trust, open communication so you can see issues before they get to the point of urgency and so you can properly delegate tasks.
  3. Be open to “failure”: Sometimes systems need to be disrupted to be improved, and that road to improvement may take some trials and even failures before the best solution evolves. But the payoff is worth it. One of the world’s most powerful organizations, Google, has a factory that embraces failure, Google X. When the innovators at Google X come up with a project idea, in it’s very first phases they seek out all of the possible ways the project could fail; this fosters creative thinking while reducing the time and resources that could be spent if a long-term investment went into the project and it later failed. While Google X is a bit extreme, the concept of seeking where things can go wrong and being open to talking about mistakes is worth applying in other businesses. If employees are earnest when they make a mistake, it can save a lot of time spent trying to reconcile and can help everyone learn.

Refresh your leadership style by challenging some of the conventional thinking to create a business that is built on respect, shared visions, time-effectiveness, and innovation.