Monthly Archives: January 2012

Three dimensions to stretch your thinking

I drove to Nashville this morning for some coaching appointments this week. The long, rainy drive gave me a chance to think about thinking. Specifically, I was thinking about ways to stretch how I think about issues, problems, and other interesting things. I came up with three ways to stretch my thinking:

1) Stretch the length of my thinking. Everything we think about has a timeframe associated with it. We may be good at explicitly stating the time frame — I’m considering buying this new car for the impact on my transportation over then next five years. More often, the timeframe goes unstated. I find that if I mull decisions in the context of different timeframes, it invariably stretches my thinking. Consider the car purchase against the value of the money invested and grown over the next twenty years, now I see the question differently. For me, longer timeframes drive better thinking. However, sometimes shorter timeframes can force action on all of those issues that fall in the “someday” category. What do I need to do in the next twenty-four hours toward my goal of writing the great American novel? Have you ever intentionally changed the timeframe of your thinking? I’d love to hear about it.

2) Widen the circle of those involved. I confess, my tendency is to approach every issue first with a how-does-it-affect-me mindset. By intentionally adding other perspectives to the mix, I find that my thinking on most subjects will change. How does this challenge affect my family? My coworkers? The shareholders? How do each of the options affect the community? The nation? The world? The universe? Okay, I can get carried away. The point is: every decision that you or I make will impact others. By intentionally including the impact on a larger group, my thinking and yours will become fuller. Frankly, I’m thinking about you as I write this article. Who do you need to think about as you wrestle with your most challenging issues?

3) Deepen the category of my thinking. There are three broad categories that I find myself using when I think about important things. The first, and by far most shallow, is the product category. What is the product of my decision? Which car to buy. Where to go to college. What to eat for dinner. Who to marry. That’s the product level, and it is where most people spend most of their thinking energy. The second, deeper level is the process level. What steps can I take to come to a decision? What process will help facilitate a good conclusion to this thinking work? The world is full of processes for problem solving. You’ve probably made lists of pros and cons — that’s the kind of process I’m thinking about. If you and others involved can’t agree on the product, move the conversation to process and open up the possibilities. The deepest category is principle. Namely, what principles are most important to serve in this decision? Thinking about principles will provide greater clarity (when you’re thinking alone) and more foundational agreement (when you’re thinking in groups). If you find yourself unclear or conflicted regarding the principles that are most important to serve, no process will lead to a good product. How deep is your thinking? For me, I know that I only go deeper when I intentionally make an effort to consider process and principle.

I hope you’ll try stretching your thinking on important issues along these three dimensions: length, width and depth. If you do, I’m wildly interested in how it works for you. Please share.

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Self-funded Sabbatical

The question, “what do you do?” has become a bit of a challenge to answer, at least in the short-sentence form that is expected in most social settings. This is because I made a decision in August to resign from a nearly 19-year career with a great Fortune 1000 company and take a sabbatical year to work as an executive coach for nonprofit organizations. Perhaps a bit more explaining is in order.

In 1993, I started with Sigma-Aldrich, answering phones in the Technical Services department. I still can hear the phone ring and my conditioned answer, “Hello, this is Kevin Krosley with Sigma Technical Service, how may I help you?” Fifty calls a day, five days a week, for nearly two years. I’m sure I spoke to about 10,000 customers.

Sigma was great for giving opportunities and I was eager for the next challenge. The result was a series of two-year assignments including: Director of Quality Control, VP or R&D, Corporate Director of M&A, VP of Operations (Packaging and QC), Team Member or Leader on five corporate strategic plans, head of global process improvement efforts, and creator and head of the company’s New Ventures Group. What a wonderful experience it was.

In every role, the most enjoyable aspect for me was partnering with colleagues for the purpose of their personal and professional growth–what is now referred to as “executive coaching.”

Now, let’s mix in three major influences that contributed to the decision to take a break from corporate life. The first is Charles Colson and the Centurion Program. In the one year program, Colson led me through the four questions that every worldview must answer — Where did we come from? What went wrong? What can be done about it? and How now shall we live? That last question brought into focus my desire to live a life of purpose and meaning.

The second influence is John Maxwell and his writing and teaching on leadership. Maxwell says that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” I began believing this eighteen years ago when I read my first Maxwell book – Developing the Leader Within You. I believe it more now with the benefit of having experienced some great leaders, some not so great leaders and the impact that each had on their organizations. Maxwell’s influence in my life expanded last year when I completed certification as a coach, trainer and speaker with the John Maxwell company.

The third major influence in recent years has come in the form of work with a number of nonprofit agencies. I have been inspired by the selfless leadership of a number of executive directors and their teams — out to change the world, often at great personal expense.

What do I do? Well, for this year, I am an executive coach serving nonprofit leaders with the sole purpose of helping them change the world. I am so grateful for the experiences and opportunities of my past. I’m even more thankful for this chance to serve in the present.

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Foundational Resolutions

At the start of the new year and at the start of my adventures into blogging, it seems fitting to share the four central resolutions that I’m carrying into 2012. These are life resolutions, not just a positive intention for the first few days or weeks of a new calendar, but anchors that can sustain me, and you, in any situation. Here are my four resolutions:

1. I am resolved to appreciate creation in all of its majesty, as a gift to be enjoyed. It is all too easy to walk through life without being properly awed by the awesomeness of the world and nature and life. I want to marvel at the complexity and elegance of creation. I want to wonder at ¬†life’s mysteries. I want to be ever moved by the gifts of breath and birds and planets and galaxies.

2. I am resolved to see everything through the clarifying lens of sin and the fall. This world and all of its parts are broken and defective. Like that new remote controlled helicopter, a week after Christmas, amazing in its design and performance, but not quite right after countless crashes and tangles with tinsel. It still works, sort of, but it is not as it should be. Neither are we. It is all too easy to forget that all of us, and everything around us is broken. I never want to find myself blaming the manufacturer for the tinsel in the rotors. I never want to see only the brokenness and miss the beauty — see resolution 1.

3. I am resolved to pursue only wise solutions to the problems we face. In the midst of pain and problems, struggles and challenges, it is far too easy to grasp at straws and turn to fads. There are so many foolish “solutions” offered to the problems of life. I want to go beyond the foolish and faddish and pursue wisdom. Easy answers don’t address the deep questions. Scripture and tradition and wise counsel are much better sources for my pursuit.

4. I am resolved to spend my life making a difference. In a world that has lost its luster and fallen into disrepair, there are solutions born of wisdom. I want to be an agent for the application of that wisdom. A servant of those solutions. It is all too easy to waste the hours and days and months – soon years and decades – with trivia.

I hope these four resolutions serve you as well as they serve me. May you be grateful and gracious, humble and impactful in the new year.

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