Habits can be a trap for people in leadership positions—whether you’re a spa owner, director, or other management position. As a leader, you should provide a compelling vision that inspires those around you. Instead, many leaders lapse into mindless thinking, which can affect every decision they make and the actions of the people who report to them. “Too often, we don’t come up with imaginative solutions, because we let ourselves be ruled by routine and by preconceived notions,” says Rob-Jan de Jong, a behavioral strategist and author of Anticipate: The Art of Leading By Looking Ahead. “We think we know ahead of time what will and won’t work, which makes us quick to dismiss ideas that sound too ‘out there.’ The people who answer to you learn the lesson that creative thinking is frowned upon, even if that’s not the lesson you wanted to teach.”
Simply making a New Year’s resolution to have a more open mind in 2016 won’t be enough to turn things around, but de Jong says there are behaviors and practices that, through repetition and perseverance, can help leaders and anyone else develop a mindset that’s open to imagination and better ideas. Here are four tips to help you become a better leader in your spa:
Formulate powerful questions. Generating ideas starts with asking the right questions and the best questions are thought provoking. They challenge underlying assumptions and invite creativity. “They also give us energy, making us aware of the fact there is something to explore that we hadn’t fully grasped before,” says de Jong.
Expand your sphere of influence. “We are strongly influenced, for better or worse, by the small group of people we have direct contact with,” says de Jong. “Because we tend to hang out with people who are fairly similar to ourselves, chances are we are limiting our perspectives.” He recommends making an effort to encounter people and ideas that are “profoundly different from the usual suspects you hang out with.” Visit a conference of a different profession, hang out with skaters, join an arts club, or buy a magazine randomly off the shelf.
Break your patterns. You can increase your chances of seeing things differently if you deliberately break your normal pattern of working, communicating, thinking, reacting, and responding.
Learn to listen. Often when people are listening, they really are waiting for the first opportunity to share their story, their opinion or their experience. De Jong suggests training yourself to engage in three pure listening conversations a week. These conversations don’t need to be longer than 15 to 20 minutes, and they can be formal or informal. “Just keep asking questions and don’t dismiss anything the other person says,” says de Jong. “Dare to challenge your own assumptions and reframe your beliefs if need be.”