We are all busy people, especially CEOs and founders of growth companies. With the fast paced lives we lead, it can be nearly impossible to imagine setting aside time just to think. Think time sounds like such a luxury! But, according to Patrick Thean’s book Rhythm, establishing a regular rhythm of think time is exactly what you need to be doing to identify and hopefully avoid looming ceilings of complexity that could be disastrous for your business.
What is a ceiling of complexity? All companies that are growing will eventually hit one… all successful companies reach a point where what was working before no longer works. Maybe it is an IT or HR process that you’ve outgrown; it is just no longer feasible to continue operating in the same way. Or, maybe it is a growth ceiling where you’ve outgrown your offerings and just are not making money anymore. Or, perhaps it is a people ceiling. Your executive team members (and maybe even you!) lack the experience and skills required to lead your company, which has grown and become more complex and difficult to manage. These are just a few common examples of ceilings of complexity. Chances are, if you are an entrepreneur who is on the verge of hitting one of these ceilings, you’re not having very much fun anymore. In fact, this feeling is a leading indicator that you could be about to bump up against a ceiling in your company’s growth climb.
So, what is the solution? Patrick’s suggestion for how to see these ceilings coming, and for how to blow right through them, is to set aside think time - each year, each quarter, each week. Sounds simple, right? If you could just carve out some time to think about the future of the business, you’d be able to see issues coming your way and solve problems before they stop you in your tracks. However, our coaching team has found that this seemingly simple solution can be very difficult to implement for our clients.
Here are some pitfalls to avoid when establishing a Think Rhythm:
• Don’t wait until you have enough time.
You’ll never do it! Commit to specific days and times to do this, and put them on your calendar. Meet with one or two core members of your executive team to think about your business. You might decide to have lunch every Monday or meet for breakfast before work on Thursdays or leave a few hours early on Friday to sit and think together. Sometimes clients find it difficult to stick to a Think Rhythm because something else comes up that seems more urgent. The truth is that there will always be something urgent - but the trick is to prioritize your company’s growth by setting aside the time to think. What is more important than avoiding a disaster that could stop your company’s growth in its tracks? Your Rhythm coach can help you stay accountable to setting and keeping these appointments.
• Don’t treat it like every other meeting.
It can be helpful to schedule this think time outside of your office. This will help you stay away from distractions and operational issues that could interfere with your ability to really think about the business. This might not always be feasible, but when possible, try to go somewhere where you can relax and think clearly.
• Don’t get stuck on what to think about.
Once you get into the routine of these weekly think meetings, you might wonder how to make the best use of this time. Now that we’re here, what do we think about? What are we supposed to accomplish in this time? This uncertainty is another obstacle that our clients face when trying to commit to establishing a Think Rhythm to work on their businesses. Your Rhythm Consultant can help you diagnose a path of progress to know what to work on during your think time. For example, if you are stuck in the sales process, maybe you need to work on Brand Promise. Generally, we recommend that you spend time thinking about the foundation of your long term strategy first. Have you identified, clarified and communicated your Core Purpose, Core Values, and Core Customer? If not, these are a great place to start in your Think Rhythm because having these items in place will help you think through everything else more effectively (like your people decisions and your Winning Moves.)
• Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away.
Have patience and stick with it. Notice that Patrick distinguishes the Think Rhythm from the Do Rhythm - there’s not always going to be a decision or an action to come out of your think sessions, but this does not make them a waste of time. Strategy is always a process, not an event. Patrick says that “a Winning Move isn’t born overnight,” and this is true of most strategic decisions. Arriving at a strategic decision that is going to be good for your company in the long run can take a long time, and it can require great discipline to stick with this Think Rhythm when you’re not seeing results right away. Even when it feels like you’re not accomplishing anything, your thinking time is laying the foundation for the decision you will ultimately make.
I hope these tips are helpful in establishing a routine of working on your business on a regular basis. Keep in mind, too, that thinking about the future of the business isn’t just the job of the CEO. In an ideal world, everyone in your company should be in some kind of a Think Rhythm - thinking about the future of their department, how they can make processes more efficient and scalable as the company grows, what skills and capabilities they may need to develop as the company evolves and changes. There’s so much to think about - and it is a necessity, not a luxury!