Strategic Advantage: Leading with a Systems Mindset Wins

Systems thinking

Summary: Incorporating systems thinking into leadership teams can help promote an interconnected approach to problem-solving and decision-making. Here are some steps to add methods of thinking to your executive team.

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

My executive team is beginning to collaborate in new ways. I would appreciate some tools for including systems thinking in our weekly “next level” programs.

We are committed to constantly getting to the next level. And then to the next level after that!

Let me explain; Next Level is our personal and business weekly meetings.

As an illustration, we consider emotional intelligence studies along with positive psychology.

Using your book “Don’t Bring It To Work” helps us learn how past outdated behavior patterns often dictate today’s behavior.

Indeed, that is eye-opening for all of us.

Therefore, I would appreciate an overview of how systems thinking can help our team communicate at a high level. Then we can throw conflict to the curb without collateral damage.

In other words, how can we use our time for growth and development so that our leaders can take these ideas to the rest of the organization?

I know that too much focus on the people aspect can become overwhelming. I learned that from you.

Work is not a rehab facility.

We must use both numbers and relationships to win.

And, by the way, congratulations on the business awards you have received for 2023.


Eager Learner

Dear Eager Learner,

Firstly, thanks for the acknowledgment regarding our leadership awards for 2023. That means a lot to me.

I remember the excitement when we first took our growth perspective into the workplace.

Initially, it was met with suspicion and, yes, even disdain.

Systems thinking is the most important way to work in teams at work.

The pushback was for bringing the “soft stuff” into companies focusing on business stats.

That is to say; many felt that they would lose ground if too much time was spent on personal development.

And when I finally got executive teams to understand that the bottom line would thrive with results through relationships, the log jam broke, and there was fast and positive movement forward.

Indigenous cultures teach about how systems are connected.

Here is the route to next-level thinking.

Raise Awareness: Begin by educating your leadership team about systems thinking. Explain how it emphasizes understanding the interrelationships and dependencies among various system parts to achieve better outcomes. Here is an outline of the power of systems thinking at work:

As an illustration, share examples and case studies demonstrating the benefits of systems thinking in different organizational contexts.

Silos at work cause limited communication, and no one sees the larger picture.

Foster a Learning Culture: Encourage a learning mindset within your leadership team. Emphasize the importance of continuous learning and the exploration of diverse perspectives.

In other words, promote open dialogue and encourage team members to question assumptions, challenge mental models, and consider the broader implications of their decisions.

Develop Systems Thinking Skills: Offer training or workshops on developing systems thinking skills. These sessions can include exercises, simulations, or case studies that enable leaders to analyze complex systems, identify feedback loops, and understand the unintended consequences of actions.

Accordingly, encourage leaders to apply systems thinking principles to real-world scenarios within the organization.

Feedback is more than pointing out what is not working.

Emphasize Interconnectedness: Highlight the interconnectedness of your organization’s functions, departments, and stakeholders. Encourage leaders to consider the impact of their decisions on the entire system rather than focusing solely on their areas of responsibility.

Encourage cross-functional collaboration and communication to address interdependencies effectively.

Use Visual Tools: Introduce tools like systems maps, causal loop diagrams, or influence diagrams to help leaders visualize and understand the complexity and interrelationships within the organization.

These tools can be used to map out various components of the system, identify feedback loops, and visualize cause-and-effect relationships.

Systems Thinking in Problem-Solving: When discussing complex issues or problems, help your leadership team to apply systems thinking principles.

Help them identify the root causes, understand the underlying dynamics, and explore the potential leverage points within the system.

Encourage using systems mapping and analysis to understand the problem’s larger context.

Promote Systems Leadership: Encourage leaders to adopt a systems mindset in their leadership practices. This involves considering the long-term implications of decisions, seeking win-win solutions, and prioritizing sustainability and resilience.

Encourage leaders to engage with stakeholders and external partners to gain a broader perspective on the system.

Think about how today’s decisions will impact the next seven generations (i.e., overuse of plastic).

Recognize and Reward Systems Thinking: Acknowledge and reward leaders who demonstrate effective systems thinking. Incorporate systems thinking into performance evaluations and recognize individuals who consistently apply systems thinking principles.

Celebrate examples of innovative solutions that consider the broader strategy and achieve positive outcomes.

In conclusion, remember that systems thinking is a process. It is an ongoing process that requires commitment, practice, and reinforcement.

At the same time, by promoting systems thinking, you can cultivate a more comprehensive and proactive approach within your organization.

The best news is, what you learn about how all is connected at work, you can take that learning and bring it home. You’ll be glad you did.

Here’s to your success,

Sylvia Lafair

PS Along with reading “Don’t Bring It To Work,” I want to offer a complimentary copy of the introduction of my newest book, “Invisible Stress (It’s NOT What YOU Think)” It is available here.

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Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options