Guest post: Mindset GPS: Navigating New Realities
Great leaders make the right call at the right time to deliver outstanding results. They avoid relying on outdated mindsets and practices in a complex and changing environment. Leaders today must be willing to help others to think strategically, question past practices, and explore new alternatives.
Relying on old habits, acquiescing to group think, and depending on obsolete assumptions limits individual careers and reduces organizational viability. A painful example: in the 1990s, mortgage bankers granted 95% mortgages based on the wrong assumption that home prices never fall more than 5%. They paid a high price for their narrow thinking. Additionally, they ignored expert warnings about a real estate bubble. One bank executive stated that he knew it would blow up, but as long as the music was playing, he had to keep dancing. Instead of searching for a new melody, he went along for the ride.
The bedrock of intelligent strategic thinking consists of carefully assessing environmental signals from multiple perspectives to uncover new alternatives. A wider information filter is necessary to collect information, explore new alternatives and assess costs and benefits. My book, Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity and Complexity, presents a checklist of six mindsets that are designed to ensure situational awareness before jumping into action or pursuing the same well-worn path. The mindsets cover information in the following areas:
- Inventing: Developing new products/services and capturing synergies
- Catalyzing: Focusing on enhancing customer service and competitive position
- Developing: Providing better infrastructure, policy and organizational systems
- Performing: Improving quality, ROI and workflow
- Protecting: Creating a high-performing culture and retaining key talent
- Challenging: Identifying trends, new niches and more effective business models
While leaders may want to pursue all six mindsets simultaneously, the leadership challenge is in selecting the one or two areas that are most critical at this point in time. It is tempting to implement more than two, but it is unrealistic from a management perspective. When “faster, cheaper, and better” became a popular mantra people recognized that only two of these three goals were possible. Leaders must make the hard choices to pursue the more relevant path to organizational success.
Staying on track to ensure success requires mental agility in making smart and timely trade-offs. When detours and barriers arise, mindsets provide guidance like a GPS system correcting us when we veer off course. These six mindsets can also be used to “recalculate” our decisions to ensure that we reach our desired destination. And just like our GPS navigation systems, leaders must employ strategic thinking to leverage current reality.