You can train yourself to be a forward thinker

Forward thinking is preparing to not only avoid pitfalls, but to also achieve growth and success.

I have worked with nonprofits and private business for over 20 years and have observed how they focus on work. Over the years I have identified some best practices that drive action and forward thinking.

The practices and lessons I learned from my work, career experience and service on several boards, has given me a valuable education on forward-thinking best practices. Below are tips you and your team can put into action.

  1. Alignment

Align your team with goals that tie to your mission and vision.

As you build your team search out people who are looking to achieve your vision. Start with the interview process. Share your vision and observe the reaction. Ask how they can help achieve the mission, vision and goals. Ask behavioral questions that demonstrate their ability to achieve outcomes. Conduct stay interviews with current team members and find out how excited they are about achieving the vision and the work they do. As the leader are you leading by example to bring your vision to life. Do your actions match your goals and vision? When they do you give your team a chance to bring ideas to the table in order to create an environment that has forward momentum and excitement.

  1. Build your Network

Learn from other organizations and get your team to do the same. Try looking for an organization outside of your own that is focused on success. A good place to start brainstorming with others is with your local chamber of commerce. Investing time and energy to build your network can help construct a whole new set of innovative ideas. Create an innovation huddle to discuss barriers holding you back and how innovative ideas learned through networking can make your organization stronger.

  1. Fail Forward

Taking risks can sometimes be an imperative factor to success. Taking the risk to experiment with a new process or idea for your team allows you to identify new areas for future growth. Don’t expect perfection on the first try. Taking a risk to try something new should make you excited and uncomfortable. Success comes from our failures. I have learned more from my failures than my success.

  1. Control

Give up the illusion of control. You can’t control every aspect of an organization or project. The only control you have is over your own behavior and actions. However, you have influence! Work with team members who are “US” people not “ME” oriented. Working with “US” people who are capable and excited about the organizations vision will give you the confidence and trust that will make it easier to give up control.

  1. Intelligence Scanning

If you are serious about becoming a forward thinker, you need to break out of your own mental models. You only know what you know. Reading will force you to identify trends and gain perspectives on success and mistakes. Being able to take a look into the mindset of others can benefit your own mental models. Continually scan the market area for new ideas.

  1. Time to Focus

Early in my career my daily tasks and email consumed my life and distracted me from putting focus on forward thinking. My calendar was filled with meetings, many of which did not require me to be there. I learned to say no, to the things that did not align with growing the vision. I stopped doing things that did not add value to the client. I rearranged my calendar using Marlo Higgins 30|60|10 formula ( 30% of the day is focused on growth, 60% on serving clients or team mates and 10% of the day following up on my promises. Try it, I think you will be impressed with the results.