It’s All in Your Head

There are always problems that must be solved, and the decisions we make when facing problems are the direct result of the state of mind we have going into them. I have found that when working with individuals it is easy to get hung up on the “why”:

·      Why did I do that?
·      Why did they do that?
·      Why didn’t they listen?
·      Why didn’t I take their advice?

This kind of thinking rarely brings a solution. In fact, it can be downright counterproductive; it siphons energy and shifts the focus on the past.

True, it is extremely important to learn from the past, but I have found that individuals can overcome problems much more effectively when the attention is focused on the present and future. One of the ways to do this is by focusing on the “hows” and “whats” of the issue:

·      What can I learn?
·      What would I do differently next time?
·      What’s possible now?
·      How can I move forward from here?
·      How can I apply what I’ve learned?

These questions are better designed to keep minds where they need to be: What is? or What will be?

The only thing the past has to offer us now is a chance to learn from it. The present and the future, on the other hand, have so much more. Therefore, try to not waste time beating yourself up about what has already happened. Shift focus on what is still to come. For many of us, this requires a change in mindset and asking the appropriate questions of ourselves can help create that change.

Change Through Agility


In the fast-paced complex business world we operate, the adage of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” rarely applies, for leaders must now be more proactive than the old saying implies. However, finding the appropriate blend of adopting new practices and keeping old ones can be a delicate tapdance.

As leaders, our ability to be agile is irreplaceable. We are ultimately the ones making the decisions and if those decisions wind up being costly, we are responsible for correcting the ship. Even though it may be our responsibility, we can employ the help of our workforce by fostering an agile work environment.

With the high rate at which change is thrown at businesses, it is no longer enough for a few top-level leaders to posses the agility trait; leaders need to build agile teams, organizations and even customers. Leaders must create an environment in which adaptability is valued. Working to accommodate change has to be swift, or our competition will bury us. If implementing a new solution or strategy is met by enormous pushback–from our employees, our partners or our customers–our businesses will sacrifice valuable time and energy as leaders struggle to convince everyone involved that the action is appropriate.

To structure an agile environment, we must attach value on individuals being able to step outside of their comfort zones. Then, when we make a decision to implement a new solution to accommodate change, our teams are positioned to be less reluctant when asked to divert from how they’ve operated in the past.

We can encourage our teams to be more adaptable by expressing that we value continuous learning. By doing so, we are encouraging our teams to keep up-to-date on new business methodologies and better develop their core competencies. Without this focus on learning, we allow our teams to become comfortable in their norms and stringent when asked to step outside of them.

It’s our responsibility to promote agility. After all, because the business landscape is always changing, the teams and organizations that are better positioned to adapt to that change have an extreme competitive advantage. Consequently, the organizations that allow their teams to become comfortable in “the way it’s always been done” will remain flat-footed as the competition speeds by in this high-paced, constantly changing business environment.


Business is full of surprises. From unexpected expenses to unforeseeable outcomes, it’s impossible to continually predict what will happen as we operate from one day to the next. But, in order to open new possibilities, possibly we should be inviting in more surprises and more unknowns.

In his new book, “Leapfrogging: Harness the Power of Surprise for Business Breakthroughs,” author Soren Kaplan suggests that to offer our clients something unexpected, we have to ourselves invite in the unexpected. Kaplan argues it’s learning how to manage the ambiguity that leads us to the big breakthrough ideas that will delightfully surprise clients and crumble competition.

When I read Kaplan’s book, I was enamored. As leaders, we daily do all we can to keep a thousand little fires from growing into uncontrollable flames. Our efforts are spent trying to anticipate industry changes and strategically position ourselves to avoid (or at least ride out) the next storm. It’s the proactive thinking that gives us the ammunition to survive, but often times we do all we can to eliminate the unknown instead of inviting it to come inside.

Welcoming unpredictability goes against basic business fundamentals. Business leaders are typically hardwired to steam forward by building well-oiled machines that deflect wrenches when they are thrown their way. As leaders, we hash out strategies, map our goals and formulate plans that account for as many variables as we can possibly include. But, even with all this effort and sweat equity, surprises are still going to, well, surprise us. Instead of spending long nights anticipating the unexpected, how would our strategies change if we adopted ways to invite surprises and incorporate them once they revealed themselves? Is it possible that doing so could expand our vision from beyond the straightforward path we have spent so much effort keeping surprise-free?

As Kaplan states in the first chapter of Leapfrogging, “Individuals, groups and organizations that leapfrog old ways of doing things often become the new leaders of the future.” Furthermore, it’s not just the ability to leapfrog old ways, it’s the ability to leapfrog our own mindsets that will help us grow into something truly special–something truly unexpected.

Leapfrogging – a new book by Soren Kaplan.