Humans are creatures of habit, and while it is debatable whether some in leadership roles are genuinely human, routine begets habit, and in a changing world, hard-wired habits ultimately contribute to gigantic brain clogs.

A leadership brain clog translates into strategy and execution misfires and abysmal levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction.

Seven Symptoms that Suggest You Have a Leadership Brain Clog

1. If everyone around you is politely hinting that something is wrong with how you are leading and you’re not actively trying to change your behaviors, your brain is definitely backed-up.

2. If you’ve hired talented people and aren’t drawing upon them to continually RETHINK EVERYTHING about your business, your brain is clogged.

3. If you find yourself defending the status quo while all the indicators suggest the world around you is undergoing seismic shifts, you might have a brain clog.

4, If you show me you have the world’s worst engagement scores and want to hire me to offer two days of light, disconnected leadership entertainment, you have a brain clog.

5. If your primary product offerings are being disrupted by lower-cost, competitively featured offerings and you are adamant that you won’t play in that space because the margins are too low, you have a severe brain-backup.

6. If your primary focus every day is on the person staring back at you in the mirror and you view everyone else as tools to make you successful, you may have a fatal leadership brain clog.

7. If you save up all of your performance feedback for the annual performance evaluation, you have a brain back-up.

Ideas to Help You Change Up Your Routine and Prevent Clogged Leadership Thinking:

The most effective leaders approach every day and every encounter with extreme curiosity driven by a desire to learn and ultimately to experiment. These leaders understand the dangers inherent in routine, especially from too much time operating inside the confines of their offices and organizations.

  • One leader blocks off one-third of her calendar time to ensure she has freedom from the endless status meetings to engage randomly with her team members and learn about their jobs, challenges, and ideas.
  • Another manager invites someone from a customer-facing role to his team meetings every month to ensure his team maintains context for their efforts.
  • My favorite product manager allocates one-quarter of her team’s travel budget exclusively for them to attend events and conferences outside of the firm’s core industry.
  • A successful executive teaches her team to operate with a perpetual Beginner’s Mind, even though they are experts on the firm’s products.
  • Another senior manager runs a book club for his team where the members choose the book each month, with the only stipulation that the book comes from a genre outside of business or leadership.
  • Another great product manager sends her team members out to observe customers but not interview them.
  • A supervisor continually asks his team, what should we be doing that we haven’t thought of yet? (While this question might be annoying, the manager brilliantly lets his team members take ownership of ideas they would like to try on for size.)

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Ultimately, the best defense against developing a brain clog is your vigilance. Change up your routine, fuel your curiosity by asking questions and keep challenging your assumptions about everything. If you are comfortable, you should be very, very, nervous.

Art's Signature