How often do you take time to step back from the day-to-day operations of your business to reflect on how best to grow and serve your customers. Recently, I read a Harvard Business Review article about the importance and power of mindful thinking. The authors recommended 10 minutes a day of mindful thinking. That sounds rather simple, yet more than 80 percent (probably more than 95%) of us can’t seem to fit it into our hectic schedules. If you’re like me, you often find yourself on autopilot, methodically marking things off your to-do list.
If you don’t have the discipline to do it yourself, then it may be time to consider an executive coach — someone who can hold you accountable. To understand more about how to leverage executive coaching, I interviewed my friend, Dan Coughlin. Dan serves as a thinking partner for executives and business owners to help them achieve their most desired outcomes. He has provided over 3,500 coaching sessions to 200 executives since 1997.
THE Small Business Expert: Dan, you write and speak about “The Any Person Mindset.” What does that mean and how does it benefit a growing organization?
Dan Coughlin: My core belief about individuals, groups, and organizations is really pretty simple. It just says any person can make a significant difference in an organization, but nobody is born with the necessary traits. These are learned thinking traits. The Harvard Business Review article you mentioned is really the key. How we think affects our traits. It’s not our natural traits, it’s our developed traits that really make the impact. I’m a big believer that anybody, any person can make a huge difference in a company or an organization. It’s mostly a matter of how they think.
THE Small Business Expert: That’s a great point. I read a book on habits which explained how we form those habits. As I said earlier, too often we’re on autopilot. Can we consciously get ourselves out of certain habits and create better ones?
Dan Coughlin: Yes. Many, many years ago, maybe 20 years ago, when I was first starting out on my own, I went to a seminar at a client’s, and they talked about this really interesting dynamic. Ideas become actions, actions become habits. Habits impact results, but it all starts with an idea. Then it’s reinforced with an action. Then the key is repeated actions. Then it becomes a habit, and then the habit is what really drives the result. The key is the habits that we develop.
THE Small Business Expert: In theory that sounds great, but is it practical when business leaders are surviving in a 24/7 world?
Dan Coughlin: I think, based on the people I’ve worked with, which is about 200 people, they work too many hours, they have too many goals, and they won’t say no to almost anything. Typically, when I coach somebody, one of the very first questions I ask is, “How many hours do you work in a week, and how many hours do you want to work in a week?” What happens is, always the first number is bigger than the second number.
Let’s just say they say, “Sixty-five hours I work and I want to work 50 hours.” I will say to them, “Well, what would it take for you to work 50 hours in a week?” That’s when the magic starts to happen. They say, “I would have to focus more. I’d have to not allow interruptions. I’d have to let go of some things.” Right away, in my opinion, they are becoming more effective, just by putting a parameter on how many hours in the week they work.
THE Small Business Expert: In your experience in working with individuals, do you find that many of us are actually addicted to the stress in our lives?
Dan Coughlin: I think that’s exactly what it is. When we were growing up, people that are high achievers today, when they were growing up, many, many times they were rewarded for doing more. They were on three sports teams, they had straight A’s, they were in student council. Then they started their career and the same thing happened. The more they could say they did, the better they felt about themselves. But it’s a trap because, at some point, it becomes really, really counter productive. The hardest thing in business, I think, is to say no.
THE Small Business Expert: At Google, I’m sure you’re familiar with this, they give their employees 20% of their time to spend thinking and working on projects that they’re passionate about. They’ve actually had some great business results from that, but it also heightens an organization’s creativity. I know that you think imagination is important. What is the upside of imagination, in your opinion?
Dan Coughlin: It’s critically important. All progress happens because we see something that doesn’t exist right now. What I would encourage you or anyone to do is, when you get an idea, write it down, even if it’s one sentence. The next day write down two or three more sentences, and nurture the idea until you can totally see it. Once you see it, then you can begin to move towards it. The upside is enormous.
So do you have the idea to schedule think time into your day? Can you nature and feed your creative ideas? Are you ready to build a competitive edge for the future?
If you’d like to read more of Dan’s articles, visit his website — The Coughlin Company. You’ll also find many of Dan’s guest posts in our guest blog area on SusanSolovic.com.
And for more of my interview with Dan, check out THE One Percent Edge Podcast.