Home Anty-Climax Tell-tale signs that you are a thinking boss

Tell-tale signs that you are a thinking boss


Are you a ‘thinking boss’? If not, you could be the cause of poor productivity, a lethargic workforce and staff animosity.

Hands up if you believe that you are a true thinker?

As a productive thinking consultant, I see so-called leaders all the time who seem to think that answers become more readily available the higher they climb the corporate ladder.

Unfortunately, however, thinking bosses are few and far between in this country, leading to disgruntled employees and inefficient processes.

A boss who isn’t a thinking boss can cause all sorts of issues by creating an organisation where employees are afraid to express their opinions and the dominant mentality is one of them versus us.

This can lead to resentment, un-productivity, time wasting and unprofitability.

So, just what are some of the tell-tale signs that are easy to spot to determine whether you are indeed a thinking boss? The three signs include:

1. Do you ever say, “I don’t know”?

2. What do you say most often: “I” or “We”?

3. And do you set aside deliberate thinking time?

“I don’t know”

Leaders who are happy to admit to not knowing the answer, not knowing where to look and sometimes not even knowing what the problem is are clearly thinking bosses. They realise that there may be more than one answer, and see the answers lying with the experts – the ones who do the work!

Let’s face it, the maintenance guy at Connex knows exactly why the air-conditioning isn’t working on trains, and doesn’t need his boss to tell him! And the person driving the forklift in despatch can tell you how busy you are, and what the month’s hottest selling item is, much more quickly than a management report!

The thinking boss will actively seek your opinion, and will typically need time to think about your ideas, and seek second opinions. Your employees shouldn’t take this personally – a thinking boss is just investigating all options in order to make an educated decision.

“I” or “We”

Thinking bosses will rarely say I, except to say, “I need your help.”

They see value in forming partnerships, and go into potential partnerships looking for benefits for both parties. They work with their suppliers to see how best they can help them to supply the right stuff at the right time, and will readily pay more for quality goods and services, realising that collaboration is a cheaper alternative to conflict.

Thinking bosses also work well with other organisations in the same business (that’s right, the competition!), looking for ways of working together to supply each other and therefore discover new and better markets (it’s the Blue Ocean Strategy that many have already written about).

Deliberate Thinking Time

While there may be some ‘partially thinking’ bosses who measure up well to items one and two, top-shelf thinking bosses deliberately sets aside time for creative, critical and productive thinking.

They also work on developing the thinking skills of their staff, which offers the biggest potential for business growth and organisational development – recognising that thinking is actually a skill that can be taught.

Warning signs of a non-thinking boss include:

  • A boss who always thinks they are right, that they have the answer, and no one else’s opinion matters. They are bosses and believe they should know! As a result, they miss out on considering all of the options and quality solutions.
  • A boss who only ever uses “I” instead of “we”. Non-collaborative, dictatorship leadership style.
  • Someone who never sets aside thinking time. They get caught up in the details, without stopping to ever think of the big picture. They think that thinking is innate and doesn’t need to be taught.

So, if you’re on the ball, you’re already what I classify as a real thinking boss – one that doesn’t know everything, focuses on collaboration and quality partnerships and sets aside time for thinking, understanding that it’s a skill that can be taught.

A thinking boss is easy to spot – because there aren’t too many around!

Ken Wall is the CEO of The Thinking Network, a consultancy which focuses on implementing a more productive way of thinking – helping organisations think better, work better, do better.

Photo: Buildscharacter