I recently spent some time with the cutest little four-year-old. She’s the daughter of two good friends and we hang out from time to time. Not only is she a blast but I usually learn something about myself when I’m with her. You know, kids will do that.
Meet Allie. She’s a bright, funny, in-charge little girl. I was at her house recently and she wanted to show me her room. Well, of course I said yes and she proceeded to give me a tour. We went picture by picture on her bulletin board and I learned all about her cousins, special events in preschool and crafts made in Sunday School.
We spent the entire afternoon together and I loved talking with her and hearing how she views the world. She’s four years old and can teach every leader a few things.
#1 Critical thinkers understand their world
Allie takes pride in her room and knows what is in it. She loved telling me all about it. The same is true for critical thinkers. They observe the world around them. They understand the long-range goals of the business or department. They recognize how day to day activities link to the big picture. And they have a grasp of their individual contribution to the team and organization.
#2 Critical thinkers ask good questions
If you spend much time with Allie (or any 4-year –old), be prepared for questions and lots of them. I think Allie’s favorite question is “why?” She asks that question because she truly wants to understand. Leaders should do the same. A critical thinker asks many questions. And to qualify, they ask good questions. The quality of answer is only as good as the quality of the question. If you want to create excellence, seek to understand why and how processes occur, and then be relentless in your search for the best solution.
#3 Critical thinkers see opportunity
A day with a child is refreshing because they really don’t have a sense of time. Time together is quality and any game or activity is possible as long as we are having fun. Critical thinkers do the same in many ways. They see possibility in the team or company. They believe if we do the right things, hold each other accountable and seek progress, success will occur. They stick around because it’s worth it.
Critical thinking is naturally wired for some folks but for many of us, it requires some effort. This is a business skill and one every leader can develop. Need some inspiration? Find a four-year-old. I promise, you will learn something.