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26 Aug 2014

Be a Critical Thinking Manager, not Criticising Manager

From discussions with my clients today, I realized that many managers are not doing critical thinking in their job.  In fact many of them are doing 'Criticizing Thinking', because they think that criticising people is part of their job.

Truth be told, being critical and criticising are different things.  You don't criticise just for the sake of criticising.  If a manager is not doing critical thinking, he is not doing the right thinking and will soon be doing 'follower thinking', or commonly called 'Group Think'.  Worse still, the manager is doing this thing called 'not thinking', and he will soon be not a manager.

What is Critical Thinking?  Why is critical thinking important?  Critical thinking is about being able to think in ways that can understand events in this world and ultimately lead to problem solving.  It is obvious that a manager's job is to solve problems, and he is not doing critical thinking, how can he solve problems?  

There are 3 elements to Critical Thinking that are seldom taught in training:
  1. Never Take Teachings by Face Value.  You need to question and test teachings to ensure that they makes sense.  If it does not, don't follow the teaching just because that teacher is a famous guru or your superior.  For example, many gurus teach people that the fastest way to cut staff cost is to cut staff salary.  Anybody that has done salary cut will swear that that is the fastest way to increase staff cost.  For staff cost is a function of staff salary over staff productivity.  In fact we teach that the fastest way to reduce staff cost is to increase staff salary, but tie that salary increase to productivity increase.  Read this article for explanation.
  2. Differentiate between Conventional Reality and Ultimate Reality.  Conventional reality is the reality that we simplify things in this world so that people can understand them and carry on lives as per normal. Like saying that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  Ultimate reality is about the ultimate truth, like the sun does not rise or set, it is the earth that is moving.  In management, conventional reality is that managers are managing people.  Ultimate reality is people cannot be managed, they only can be led and influenced.
  3. Consider Interests of Different Stakeholders and never be biased in your thinking, i.e. having a thinking that only takes care of one stakeholder and causes harm to the other stakeholders.  A good example is allowing locals to enter casinos.  There are also conflicts in the interests of different stakeholders, but a critical thinker is not afraid of such conflicts and is able to think through the problem to achieve maximum win for all.
By Andy Ng of Asia Trainers, whose courses on management (like How to Be a Better Manager) and leadership are now recognized as essential development contents for managerial success.  For list of courses, click here. Related articles:

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