3 Simple Steps Leaders Can Take To Improve Their Thinking Skills

When one of the people I respect the most in the leadership world accepts my invitation to do a guest post in The Leader’s Digest, it makes me pretty chuffed. 

So this is me, pretty chuffed indeed, introducing this week’s guest author, Tanveer Naseer!

Tanveer Naseer is an internationally-acclaimed keynote speaker, award-winning leadership writer, author, and CEO of Tanveer Naseer Leadership, a leadership corporate training and consulting firm. Tanveer has received numerous awards and recognitions for his work, including being recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Leadership and Management Experts” as well as one of their “100 Great Leadership Speakers”.

His post is pretty timely, given this crazy action filled time of year. Check it out…

With this year – and decade – edging closer to its end, most leaders are using this opportunity to take a step back and reflect on what their organization has accomplished over the past 12 months and what lies ahead going forward.

It’s a practice I really look forward to spending time on. Being able to intentionally review the goals I’ve accomplished over the past year drives me to push myself even further for the year to come in regards to the kinds of goals I set for my company and for myself. Of how to not simply rest on my laurels and achievements, but leverage them to challenge myself to do and become even more.

Although many leaders I’ve spoken with about the importance of reflection admit they’ve also seen the benefit of making time to reflect and review on the way they lead, what’s become more apparent is how many leaders are struggling with making time to just think. To move beyond simply being reactive, to being more reflective about what they need to communicate and offer to ensure the collective success of their employees.

As such, I’d like to share 3 simple steps you can take right now to improve the way you think – and with it, improve your leadership.

1. Schedule time for thinking in your agenda

Just like you would do for an important call with a client or a meeting with your team, the first thing you need to do is schedule time in your work for thinking. Again, I appreciate how many of us are struggling with calendars that are bursting at the seams from having to run from one meeting to another. 

That’s why for this first step, you only have to start small. For example, schedule 10-15 minutes in your calendar for thinking. Then over time as you start to develop this habit more, you can dedicate more time to thinking so you can ensure you’re making the best choices and decisions for your team.

2. Get a change of scenery

There have been many studies that have shown how taking walks in the great outdoors has many health benefits – from reducing stress and anxiety, to lowering your blood pressure and boosting your immunity. But in terms of improving our thinking abilities, taking a walk in a park or forest has been shown to have tangible impacts on our cognitive skills.

Researchers from the University of London have found that nature walks can boost our creative problem-solving abilities, while University of California researchers found it can also improve our ability to focus. Clearly, these are two cognitive skills you want to have firing on all cylinders if you’re to be effective in your scheduled thinking time.

3. Allow your mind to wander, but be ready to capture new insights

Now the goal in this scheduled thinking period is for you to give your mind time to wander, to free itself of the various demands and distractions you face on a given day so it can create those new connections to information and ideas that can help shape and inform your decisions going forward. 

And as these ideas, or even at times epiphanies, will be unexpected, it’s important that you have a way to capture these ideas so you can capitalize on them to the benefit of your team and organization.

I often use a note-taking app on my phone to capture ideas and insights that come to my mind as I go through my thinking process. Mind you, I also make sure my phone is set on “Do Not Disturb” mode as well so that I don’t get sucked into the mental distractions these digital devices have increasingly become.

Without question, our ability to succeed at leadership arises from the foundation of how effective we are at critical and strategic thinking. But if we allow the increasing demands on our time and attention to take away from our ability to reserve time for us to think, we run the risk of losing out on delivering our best to those we have the responsibility to lead.

Thanks, Tanveer. I especially like the ‘nature walks tip. Check out Tanveer’s blog here, for more great leadership tips, Suzi.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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