In the book – Leadership is Language by L. David Marquet, he references the difference between doing and thinking and the influence it has on results and outcomes. He separates the two into blue work and red work. Blue work being that of the thinking side of the equation and red work being that action or doing part of the effort. He separates these to bring a clear contrast to how leaders influence positively or negatively the outcomes of a situation. A good read for sure.
I introduce this because our history has compelled many of us to be constantly in the red or doing portion of not just leadership but business in general. We see the world through the lens of action or activity as the primary purpose for accomplishment. This is a left over from the onset of the industrial age and has lingered around simply because it is perceived to be effective. Unfortunately, being stuck in activity mode and not taking time or allowing for the system to breathe and take constructive input places your organization in potential jeopardy.
Most of our businesses are not in the business of saving lives or even preventing bad outcomes as a result of the nature of work being accomplished. We are not running into burning buildings or trying to resuscitate a person who has fallen ill etc. Most of our business world is the creation of products or services and delivering them to the consumption point of those items. We tend not to view the decisions we make in the same light as those decisions which impact the physical saving of a life or limb.
As a result, during the onset of the industrial age, work activities were compartmentalized to take the thinking out of it. The idea was to allow a greater number of people to be easily put into activity mode on a repetitive and recurring cycle. They did not have to think just do, do, do…. Although there is some benefit to having a recurring set of directions and activities, taking thinking out of the effort removed critical input from better results and outcomes. It also created walls between fellow workers and leadership. This began to erode the positive working relationships which had existed in the agriculture age.
We are past the age of agriculture and industrial. Now we are into the digital or informational age of business. As leaders, we MUST stop holding onto past practices just because we are familiar with them and invite into our future success the brain power of creativity and innovation like never before. To do this, we need to cycle between both the time of doing and time of thinking. Doing some things and then pausing and thinking and learning from them to have constructive conflict to make the end results that much better. It is a better form of open communication where there is not one idea or direction which is top down but a vision for the outcome and those involved have an opportunity to engage their contribution and insights into the success. This is not some group think effort but more of a group of individuals engaging and challenging without restriction of hierarchy.
Consider our fire fighters rushing into a building. If there are insights by some individuals to not enter as a result of extreme danger such as building collapse, this information needs proper and real consideration. We must ask ourselves the question – is there a different approach to consider rather than simply doing the activity of rushing into the burning building? Can we accomplish the same outcome a different way?
This week, evaluate your leadership model. Are you stuck in activity mode and are your team members taking your lead on activity? Consider reshaping the communincation language to enable a fuller use of both thinking and action to achieve your best outcomes.
Your Promise Guide can help you define your language to enhance your future outcomes. Give JKL Associates a call at FL (407) 984-7246 or MI (313) 527-7945.