“Thinking time? What thinking time? I barely have time to breathe!” That was the response I received recently when I asked a manager I was coaching if they set aside time to think. A day-in-the-life of a manager is filled with fire-fighting, emails and meetings, problem-solving, coaching direct reports and managing up. The very idea of “putting time on the calendar” to think is out of the question!
We recently surveyed 1000 managers across all industries, and found that only 25% actually scheduled weekly “thinking time.”
Research shows that setting aside time to think weekly increases productivity for both the manager and their team. Employee engagement also increases. When coaching and doing workshops for BetterManager, we use a simple metaphor, “From the Dance Floor to the Balcony.” We explain that while a manager is on the dance floor, they are focused on what is directly in front of them (ex: other dancers), behind them and next to them. They have a limited perspective. However, when they go up to the balcony and look down on the dance floor, they have a brand-new perspective.
When on the balcony, they can see around the corner and over the horizon. They can see how dancers are moving well together and who needs help. They can also see patterns and trends and think strategically. Being on the balcony is where the manager adds the most value to their team, their direct reports and to the organization. Take a look at this short video entitled, “From the Dance Floor to the Balcony”.
We schedule time for meetings, for projects, why not schedule time to think and be strategic? Managers can brainstorm a list of things to focus on during their “balcony time.” Examples include crafting their goals and objectives for the next quarter or preparing their QBR for the current quarter. Projecting staffing needs, creating meaningful reports or completing an Employee Development Plan are other examples. This is also an opportunity to reflect on successes during the week, team development (i.e., “What have I done to bring out the best in my team?”), and to identify team obstacles.
When we schedule “thinking time,” Dr. Muireann Irish, an Associate Professor from Sydney University’s School of Psychology and Brain and Mind Centre says, “Because we are not focusing on one particular thing, we actually free up and loosen associations between different concepts and constructions. It has been found that these periods of incubation are where ideas or solutions can come together in creative and flexible ways.”
Back to our recent survey … just imagine if those 1000 managers were more intentional about their work – being more proactive rather than reactive by planning and driving results? How might that change workplace culture around the world?
Click here for BetterManager’s Guide to Strategic Thinking Time.
Karen Benz is a member of the coaching team at BetterManager!