What To Think About

Studies from social psychologists have concluded that the media (contrary to common opinion) is not effective at changing how we think.  Instead, it is quite effective in determining what we think about.

As leaders, it can be helpful to focus less on trying to change how our employees think and more on changing what they are thinking about.

As countless others have remarked, getting our employees to change is difficult.  We usually try to change how they think.  This works only rarely because our employees’ current modes of thinking have been well-honed over many years, and they resist change.

The more effective method is to change what they are thinking about, keeping front of mind what we, as leaders, want them to be thinking about on a daily basis.

Keeping Front of Mind

As leaders, we need to use goals, reminders, best practices, training, and a cadence of regular follow up so that the employee knows what topics are important and need to be addressed regularly.

In one organization where I worked, the team focused on profitability alone with little attention on collecting the money and cash management.  Several leaders commented that our cash management was as good as the competition and that it could not get any better due to the industry and customer dynamics. 

At first, we tried to change their thinking to convince them that cash management could be significantly improved.  Alas, this did not work.

Instead, we changed what they were thinking about by keeping cash management front of mind.  We…

  • Created goals related to cash management
  • Instituted training on effective cash management
  • Shared best practices about effective management
  • Followed up weekly about cash
  • Evaluated and compared (a little healthy competition) the cash management performance of different divisions

As a result, we were able to reduce dramatically the cash requirement in the business making the business much stronger and capable of greater growth.


The successful strategy was not to change how they think about cash management.  Rather, it was to keep the idea of cash management in their heads so consistently that they knew they had to focus on cash management.  This unrelenting attention to cash management led to the improved results.

The irony of focusing on what our teams are thinking about (rather than how they think) is that once our teams are continuously thinking about something and keeping it front of mind, that something become more important and becomes ingrained in their way of thinking.  In the end, we have changed how our employees think.


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
This entry was posted in Improve / Turnaround, Leadership, Team / People and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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