If you run a company then you are probably burdened with a plethora of troubles.
You have all sorts of headaches, problems and surprises to sort out every day. It is hard to stand back and focus on the big strategic issues – but that is exactly what you have to do. Here are a couple of thinking exercises to help you approach the challenge afresh.
1. Imagine it is your first day. This method is recommended by Andy Grove, CEO of Intel. Imagine that tomorrow is your first day as CEO. The previous incumbent has been fired by the Board and it is your job to move in and sort things out. If you were starting from scratch what would you say to the staff? What vision and direction would you give them? Who would you hire and who would you fire? What projects would you prioritise or cancel? What would your primary focus be? If these things are critical for a new starter then surely they are critical for you. This thinking exercise encourages you to forget about the short-term problems but to focus on the major strategic priorities instead.
2. Imagine that you have been diagnosed with a very serious condition. The doctor has said that you must leave your job in two months and retire. What would you do? Who would you delegate tasks to? How would you transfer your day to day responsibilities? Plan your own exit and legacy. What are the key things to complete in the next two months? If you could do this and set the company on the right course then why not do it now and so free yourself to add value in some new and strategic way? This method was suggested by Oren Harari and Tom Peters. It will help you to delegate more, build a succession plan, focus on key issues and liberate your time for new ventures.
We tend to think that a CEO’s job is about execution – and it is. But it is also about thinking, imagining, envisioning and communicating. Take more time for these activities and you will be a better leader.
Paul is a professional keynote conference speaker and expert facilitator on innovation and lateral thinking. He helps companies improve idea generation and creative leadership. His workshops transform innovation leadership skills and generate great ideas for business issues. His recent clients include Airbus, Microsoft, Unilever, Nike, Novartis and Swarovski. He has published 30 books on lateral thinking puzzles, innovation, leadership and problem solving (with over 2 million copies sold). He also acts as link presenter at conferences and facilitator at high level meetings such as a corporate advisory board. He has acted as host or MC at Awards Dinners. Previously, he was CEO of Monactive, VP International of MathSoft and UK MD of Ashton-Tate. He recently launched a series of podcast interviews entitled Insights from Successful People.