Reframing Our Thinking

Mar 5, 2024 | About L2L, All Blogs, Leadership, Reframing Series, Relationships

Part 1

At a recent leadership retreat, Jennifer heard a recommendation about leaders’ time. 80% of your time, the advice goes, should be spent thinking about your business. 20% should be spent on doing the business.

For leaders, the wisdom is in directing our time and energy. Are we spending time strategizing, planning, and structuring for the future of our business? Or are we so deep in the weeds that we’re not actually able to navigate?

Even for those of us who are not CEOs, the idea of so much thinking time felt like a revelation and a much-needed permission to do our work differently. We recognize that our socialization tells us that “busy” and “productive” are signs of our value. Here’s what our team reflected:

Thinking doesn’t look like working. 

I often apologize for taking so long to think about things.

I feel guilty for spending so much time thinking. 

Even though thinking was essential to envisioning and organizing a new project, I still labeled it as “procrastination” because it wasn’t producing “results.”

Thinking deeply requires something we don’t make enough time for: focus, space, quiet, freedom from distractions and urgency. The scarcity is also a result of thinking not being built into our jobs. We don’t write job descriptions with thinking as a core function. We don’t do performance management on the quality and effort of our thinking. 

Today, we’re reframing thinking as work that is not only worth our time and worth talking about, it is essential for building dynamic work environments.

What it Takes to Think

As with money, goals, and change, we hold beliefs about thinking, too. For some of us, a new thought or idea is saddled with urgency to make it a reality. Sometimes, we can devalue thinking as not “real work.” Sometimes, vulnerability arises because we have to bring our thoughts and ideas to others for collaboration. 

Nick shared a compelling practice for musicians that’s helping us reframe the value of thinking. The practice is to imagine yourself playing your instrument. As a saxophone player, Nick imagines what it feels like to blow into the horn. Or he imagines making notes with his hands empty. In this imagined practice, he’s embodying the music and the production of music. Is it producing a sound? No. Is it impacting the sound? Absolutely.

So much else “counts” as thinking too. Wondering, questioning, researching, and, in Jennifer’s words, “engaging my emotions.” When emotions come up, we first have to pause to acknowledge and name them. Then, we ask ourselves, “What’s the story behind them?” And, “Could there be a different story?”

The process also involves understanding what the emotions are telling us–emotions are data; anger can signal an injustice, sadness an unacknowledged loss, resentment a crossed boundary. There’s a lot of thinking happening here, and relying on human-centered practices so that we can show up with others aligned with our values.

Another kind of thinking is bringing awareness to how oppressive systems are impacting us, in particular, how white supremacy culture influences us. We have to distinguish when our thoughts are trapped by beliefs about unworthiness, scarcity of time and resources, individualism, and performance of busyness–all ways that we reflect living within a dehumanizing system.

But the thing we think about most? Our clients. 

Next week, we’ll share how we think about organizations and people we partner with. In the meantime, we’d love to talk with you about how Human-Centered Practices can support your thinking and relationships.

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