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8 Ways To Think Different And Develop Your Own Opinion

8 Ways To Think Different And Develop Your Own Opinion

Think out of the box! How many times have you heard this phrase and wondered how can ‘I think out of the box’? Thinking ‘differently’ is a skill most sought after. Look at most professional job descriptions and you will see critical thinking as a required skill.  People who think differently are the ones getting paid lucratively.
So how can you think differently especially if you have never done it before? The first simple step is that –  to think differently, you have to do differently.

1. Play children’s games

Yes, you heard me right! So many of the kids’ games nowadays are challenging and mentally stimulating, forcing us to think different. Games such as SnapCircuits, Swish, Set, Gravity Maze are just a few examples from thousands of exciting and challenging games. Play them with your kids or with friends and have fun while developing the abilities to think differently!

2. Different people enable different thought processes

Meeting new people is a great way to learn new things, become aware and open our mind to new possibilities. As an example, I was talking to the granite installation guy at my house earlier today. It was a fascinating conversation to learn about his origins from Cuba and how he came to be in the US and in the granite business. This spurred several streams of thought about immigration issues, career choices, granite industry and even food!!

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A simple 3 minute conversation not only spurred these different thought processes but inspired me to do some research on a few of those things. I learnt something new. Meet new people at every opportunity you get. Through networking or through friendly referral introductions or in the community you live and work in, each person you meet is a treasure trove of information and ideas.

3. New experiences trigger new thoughts and opinions

Every new experience whether good or bad, triggers a new way of thinking. A few ideas worth exploring here are:

  • Experimenting with new cuisines
  • Taking a new route on the way to work and observing what is outside
  • Indulging in different travel experiences – possibly traveling to different destinations or traveling alone or traveling with family, traveling with friends, traveling to a spiritual destination, traveling to a foodie destination, architectural vacation, cruise, art destinations and so on. Each experience will leave you with something new and a new way of thinking about something.
  • Experiencing new cultures. This is a big one! Learning about a new culture by experiencing it, opens up our senses and our thought processes significantly.  If you have the opportunity to live in a new culture situation for a few months or a year, that is a great way to become aware and learn to adapt new ways of thinking.

4. Exposure to different ideas

People are filled with ideas. It’s fascinating to read about these ideas in various books on different topics. We are living in an information overload world and there is no dearth of information and ideas. Developing interests in varied range of topics by reading different books on different subjects by different authors is another great way to develop the ‘different way of thinking’ mindset. Go to a bookstore, walk randomly and pick a book and read it. Pick random magazines at the doctor’s office and read them.

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Now that you have learned some exciting ways to think out of the box, that is not enough! It’s not enough to just think differently, it is also essential to be able to use that thinking ability to develop one’s own opinions and express them.

Why is it important for us to be able to form our own opinions? Because we are part of a larger fabric of society and there are many instances and situations where our opinion matters. If not singularly, as a collective entity our opinion matters. It may be in politics, it may be on your school PTA board, it may be in your community, in the workplace or even at home! There are umpteen instances where we need to be able to form our opinions and express them clearly. Sometimes we may be speaking for ourselves, but at other times we may be the voice of many others who are unable to express the same view!

5. Get your facts right

The first step to forming your own opinion is to form it based on the right facts. It is one thing to form your opinions based on emotions and feelings and perceived intentions, it’s another thing to truly investigate and ascertain the facts before forming an opinion. Do your homework – talk to people, research, do whatever it takes to get the facts right. The easiest way to get into this habit can be to start with simple matters. At home or work when you notice yourself forming an opinion about someone or a situation, force yourself to answer the questions :

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  • How do I know this to be true?
  • What are the facts that support my opinion?

6. Write a persuasive essay on a high school topic

Pick a persuasive topic from a high school list of prompts. Do the research, gather the facts, spend time thinking about your views on the topic and your takeaways. Write a persuasive essay convincing someone of your view on that topic. Make sure to back it up with facts and a logical line of reasoning taking the reader along with you through your thinking process. Do one essay a week and your skills should be sharp in no time!

7. Hold a group discussion with a group of friends

Gather a group of friends and hold a group discussion. This is similar to a book discussion meeting, but instead a topic is given on the spot or picked from a list of prompts that are prepared earlier. The sky is the limit with the topics you can choose from. You can go from politics, religion, sports, healthcare to parenting, work and many more.

Limit the group to about 5-6 people. Split the group into 2 sub teams. One team will talk in favor of the topic and the other team against the topic. Start off with giving each member about 3 minutes to speak. Once all members have had a turn, open it up and let the members question and support their points. This activity not only helps in forming an opinion but also helps with expressing your opinion persuasively and succinctly.

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8. Use the objective lens

As much as we would like to think that our thinking is right and logical and that we could never be wrong, the fact of the matter is, we could be wrong!! The key thing to remember is that we view the world through the lens we have adopted – a lens that has trained us to see the world a certain way clouded by our experiences, our upbringing and so on.

When we form opinions, it’s critical to take off that lens and use a more objective lens, one that will not cloud our judgements. Have we arrived at an opinion viewing all pieces of the information available objectively? Or have we conveniently ignored certain relevant pieces of information? This way of viewing the world comes with conscious practice. Start practicing it today!

What tactic from the 8 listed above, are you going to try first?

Featured photo credit: Jacob Botter via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 15, 2019

How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

What Makes a Leader Fail?

A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

What Is Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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“… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

1. Courage

The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

4. Likability

Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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5. Vulnerability

Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

6. Authenticity

Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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“A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

9. A Passion for Continual Learning

Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

The Bottom Line

No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

More Resources About Effective Leadership

Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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