Once defined as the study of the well-examined life, philosophy has something unique to teach each one of us on how and why we live. Previously, we looked at how Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations encourage Leaders to care for the interests of their Followers.
Our philosopher this week hails from Ancient China. Confucius, or Master Kong, was a Chinese teacher, politician, and philosopher. His philosophy, commonly known as Confucianism, emphasizes personal and political morality, correctness of relationships, justice, and sincerity, and in his widely-read Analects, he touches on the composition of a great Leader.
Confucius believed that proper thinking paired with decisive action led to the best results.
“Chi Wan thought three times before taking action. When the Master was informed of it, he said, ‘Twice will do.’”
What does this mean? Think hard before doing something, and then act decisively. All too often, we act without thinking, and then come to regret it.
Or, perhaps the opposite — you may think so much, you never get to the “Act” phase and seem to never make those harder decisions!
Whether you are on the “acting too quickly side” or the “not acting fast enough side” the thought of thinking about a large decision 2 or 3 times before acting on it may serve us well.
So, what could this process look like?
Say you’ve got a strategic decision to make for your team. You know you are going to need to bring on at least two team members to be able to support the work that is coming your way in the next few months. You’ve got to figure out what those roles will do and who they will report to (do they report to you or do they report to some of your direct reports).
Thinking about it once:
Use this “pass” as a pie-in-the-sky brainstorming session. What would you love to see happen? What are the possibilities? Break them down (even if they seem to contradict each other).
At the end of this time, walk away with three things:
(1) The list of possibilities
(2) What other information you need to gather to make an informed decision
(3) Schedule your time to come think about it again
Thinking about it twice:
So, you’ve gathered some more information and now is the time to look at defining your solution. Taking into consideration all your options (and the new info you have), map it out and jot down any questions or concerns you’ve got.
At the end of this time walk away with three things:
(1) The commitment to jot down any other thoughts or ideas you have in the next few days on this
(2) Don’t look directly at the plan or intentionally think about it until the next time you sit down
(3) Schedule your last time to think about it!
Thinking about it a third time:
Pull your plan back out and read it!
What are your initial thoughts or feelings? Feeling pretty good? Or do you have any pending or lingering questions that just aren’t sitting quite right?
Look at those questions or comments you wrote down (if there were any) and think about how do those play in.
This time, determine if you’ll keep going with what you have or if you want to tweak it a bit.
And, from here – schedule time with the next people you’ll need to involve!
As Leaders today, we’re all grappling with many decisions and difficult problems. Confucius helps remind us to, think responsibly and act with conviction.