I did a 5-part summary of the book – The Third Opinion: How Successful Leaders Use Outside Insight To Create Superior Results by Saj-Nicole A. Joni, PhD. You can find each episode here:
Three years of research by the author has led to two insights that form the heart of this book:
Insight 1: Leadership today requires 3 new habits: the habit of the mind, habit of relationship and habit of focus.
Insight 2: You can start developing the three habits and your advisory network at any time during your career.
One: Habit of mind
Leaders must master a new way of thinking. Joni calls this “exponential thinking.” It allows you to see all sides of a complex issue. Exponential thinking is best done with others. This kind of thinking plays an important role in decisions where there is high ambiguity, uncertainty, and risk.
Exponential thinking is required at all levels today, not just the C-suite.
Two: Habit of relationship
Leaders today must assemble a new kind of leadership team, one that ensures they undertake the right kind of exploratory thinking. One that challenges perspectives.
Leaders need external thinking partners so they explore sensitive and edgy issues with high trust and external perspective. These are compartmentalized roles necessarily. A person can play different roles. For instance, one person might move from subject expert to thinking partner and sometimes to action team member at different times depending on the circumstances, expertise and interest. Your ability to get results in increasingly boundaryless organizations depends on how well you can orchestrate your network of important relationships.
Three: Habit of focus
Leaders must have the skill and discipline to focus on the essential non-urgent issues. Leaders today face information overload and increased demands for speed. More and more daily work has become urgent. But just getting daily work isn’t what your leadership is about. Leaders must be able to create and execute strategies to carry out their leadership agendas.
Mastery of the habit of focus is being able to function effectively in your high-pressure environment and make progress on the big, longer-term issues that need your attention. Your sustained focus on the non-urgent important issues is ultimately what will define your leadership. It’s what differentiates your unique contributions and ability to deliver value no one else can.
Insight 2 is that anybody can develop these three habits at any time. But it’s important to develop these habits in concert. Everybody will use each habit differently, but there are guidelines to help you focus on perfecting the various parts of each habit as your leadership progresses.
Where do today’s business leaders turn for outside insight to help them?
Rather than prescribe a 1-size-fits-all approach, I think we can think about the answer in two general areas: informal circles or associations and formal circles or associations. Today I want to nudge you to think of both informal and formal circles in light of being purposeful and intentional. We can all improve our lives, including our personal and professional growth, with more deliberate activity to make sure we improve our circles.
Why The Third Opinion Matters
We’re familiar with the proverbial second opinion, mostly associated with healthcare. We go to a doctor because we’re unsure what’s wrong with us. The doctor runs a battery of test and tells us he’s not sure exactly what’s wrong, but he makes an educated guess. Rather than proceed with that doctor, we opt to visit another doctor who also runs a battery of his own test. Maybe he, too tells he’s unsure of what’s wrong, but he surmises it’s something different than the first doctor. That’s a quandary.
Maybe we choose to trust the doctor who gave us the most favorable diagnosis. Maybe we do just the opposite and trust the doctor with the worst diagnosis. Or, maybe we choose to visit a third doctor.
I suspect second opinions are mostly sought to confirm the first opinion. But what do we do if the two opinions are completely different? If we’re wise, we keep looking for answers, or congruent conclusions.
Ms. Joni’s book reveals how we all tend to get a first opinion from people closest to us, then we likely get a second opinion from others, either inside or outside our company. But she puts forth a strong argument for a third opinion. One that is sought from a more intentional group of advisors who can serve us. She argues that when business leaders avail themselves of such a resource they hardly ever go back to a life without a third opinion. And for good reason. It’s simply too effective and powerful.
It Doesn’t Matter Unless You’d Like To Grow
Decision making is important for every leader. As a business owner or executive, you’re focused daily on making better decisions. And making them faster. But that’s just one aspect, albeit a very critical part of your life.
The bigger reason is growth. Your personal and professional growth!
That’s why my over-reaching objective and mission is to evangelize this message that who we surround ourselves with matters. And we should be much more intentional and purposeful about it.
That doesn’t mean we operate in that domain 100% of the time because that’s impractical. For instance, your family is your family. I hope they’re perfectly nice, supportive people. But that doesn’t mean they always help you grow. If you’re like most of us with a loving, supportive family, they likely sympathize with us, encourage us, offer us some correction (hopefully when need it most), but it’s unlikely they challenge us in the best ways to grow, improve or transform. They’re likely too close to us to do that for us. The context of our relationship and our history with them likely prohibit an opportunity for enough perspective to serve us like that.
The same could likely be said of close friends and other associations. They’ve all got strings attached. A context that makes it all but impossible to have an opinion or perspective that serves us simply because they’re determined to help us grow, improve and transform. These informal relationships have another agenda, likely an agenda that’s perfectly fine and acceptable. They want us to still love them, keep them employed, like them, be friends with them and many other positive outcomes. Hopefully positive outcomes for both of us. But it doesn’t always happen.
This third opinion – this very intentional opinion we seek – is valuable to our growth. It’s not always comfortable – in fact, it’s often uncomfortable because that’s how all growth happens. But don’t confuse being uncomfortable with being unsafe or feeling threatened. When it’s done properly, figuring out how to take advantage of a third opinion delivers superior opportunities for our personal and professional growth because it’s secure, safe and confidential. That’s a remarkable opportunity that very few CEOs and leaders have ever experienced. Those who do demonstrate an elevated performance uncommon to others.
Your business could be a one-man band, but it’s more likley you operate a business that depends on a team of people. What you’re able to do with this team of people – people you’ve intentional surrounded yourself with – is likely significantly better than what you could ever hope to do alone. That’s how it works when you’re looking for perspectives you may have yet to consider. It’s not about finding somebody with whom you can agree…it’s all about growth so you can figure out for yourself what may best serve YOU. It’s driven entirely by your aim to grow.
Besides, why else would you be listening to a podcast called “Grow Great?”
Be well. Do good. Grow great!