Breathing Room & Thinking Time

“Poirot,” I said. “I have been thinking.”

“An admirable exercise, my friend. Continue it.”

– Agatha Christie, Peril at End House

Most leaders become leaders because they are high-performing doers.

But it’s a trap. If you want to make the shift to becoming a high-performing leader, you need to become a high-performing thinker.

The most important goal for any leader is to have a team strong enough to manage themselves – so that you have time to breathe, to think, to look up at other possibilities, to explore new opportunities and challenges – to think about the future moves of your company.

If you’re in fire-fighting mode all the time, and solving problems you’re going to be very busy. And while that’s good for the business today, you’re not really doing strategic leadership.

The challenge is to find a way to carve out, ideally, one or two hours a day – or at least a couple of hours a week – to think about the true future of the business, and move it forward.

When I talked to 50 successful CEOs around the world for a recent book project, one of the things we talked about was strategic thinking time.

One CEO did his greatest thinking while walking the dog, another when he had his weekly strategic planning breakfast with his executive team. Others found thinking time while running or biking with a partner, or swimming laps, or smoking a cigar alone at night.

I do my thinking on airplanes, after working out, when collaborating with others (particularly my coach) and journaling. It feels like my IQ doubles when I sit with a pen and paper to work through a situation.

So, it doesn’t matter where or how – by yourself or with others. You just need more thinking than doing, in a planned fashion.