Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘clarity

Six Steps to Educate Employees About Delegated Tasks and Assignments

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Leaders teach employees how to perform their delegated assignments and tasks in order to assure their timely and accurate completion. An effective method of educating employees both ensures complete understanding of assignments and addresses productive ways to complete them successfully.

When tasks are delegated, many leaders become frustrated by the inability of employees to complete assignments in a timely and competent manner. Leaders often feel completing assignments by themselves is easier and faster. This becomes an excuse and a barrier to delegating altogether. It also hampers the leader’s ability to grow and increase their productivity.

Leaders understand that when they begin to delegate tasks and assignments, time and patience are needed to educate their employees to perform competently.

Leaders regularly delegate assignments, but continue to see employees fall short of assignment completion and the expectations set for them. This is often the result of assignments or tasks being misunderstood, ignored, forgotten or viewed as overwhelming. These negative outcomes are generally attributed to improper or ineffective employee education.

Leaders know that in order to increase productivity and results, the first step is to properly educate their employees in how they want the task and assignment carried out and how specifically to do it. Employees must also be made aware of set time frames for accomplishing the work and the desired results the leader expects.

While employees may stumble initially, leaders understand that their proficiency will increase greatly with time and experience.

Use of the following six-step instructional method is a top priority for leaders because it eliminates unsuccessful assignment implementation and completion.

Review the Assignment

In order to effectively educate employees, leaders begin by previewing the overall assignment, task or responsibility. They look at all the components necessary to complete it effectively in a timely fashion and review their personal expectations in regard to it. Developing notes and reference points to use when meeting with individuals to be assigned is essential.

Explain Clearly and Carefully

One main responsibility in educating employees is to make instructions as clear and precise as possible. Leaders know that explaining clearly is a twofold process. They need to present their information in a way that is logical and free of confusion or ambiguity. The other side of clarity is how an employee perceives, interprets and responds to the instructions.

Leaders make it a point to use vocabulary that is on the employee’s level of understanding. Specific examples are used that relate directly to the tasks and expectations within the given assignment. Leaders carefully organize and sequence the components of each task to be assigned. They eliminate irrelevant or unrelated information and are logical and realistic in their expectations and requirements.

Apply ‘Think Time’

It is vital to explain in detail the work that needs to be done. Leaders need to both offer ideas or suggestions as to how best accomplish it and build in “think time” for employees to ponder and absorb what is being said. These are pauses inserted between major points of discussion, and include various essential components related to the task or the employee’s questions regarding the assignment.

There is a time difference between hearing and comprehending. People talk much faster than one can actually listen. This is why leaders make it a point to explain small portions of an overall assignment within a given time frame, affording the necessary space for employees to think through the instructions and various responsibilities that apply to all aspects of their assignment. Additional time is allowed to formulate questions and concerns so employees feel thoroughly prepared.

Assign Reference Materials and Individual Resource People

There may be times throughout the course of an assignment when an employee needs to use outside resources. Leaders cover these contingencies in their instructions.

Employees should be given the names of two or more people that can help them in problem situations. Reference materials should also be offered with detailed explanations of how they can be used and for what types of situations. Discussions and illustrations on how and where to find solutions to problems pertaining to their assignments need to be included in the instructional process.

Repeat and Readdress Directions and Specific Points

As total understanding is key to task achievement, leaders consistently repeat and readdress major points, issues and detailed components of assignments. This repetition focuses the employee’s attention on what is being said. Repeating and readdressing issues also helps leaders avoid inserting last-minute changes in their assignments and/or instructions. It is also a good way to survey the understanding levels of an employee. Leaders find many employees are ready to begin their assignments immediately after one good instructional period. Many will need little or no intervention and prodding afterward.

Self-Test for Assignment Understanding

Leaders encourage employees to test themselves in instructional areas that are not clear to them. The process includes being able to identify and openly state the main idea of the various components, steps, actions and responsibilities in their assignments. They should be able to recall exact directives of each separate phase of their assignment. Employees should be able to verbally detail what they need to do, when it needs to be done, and how best to accomplish it.

Ideas, concepts, methods or areas that remain unclear need to be revisited. Instructions should be given again in a learning style best suited to achieving total understanding. Leaders find that self-testing works effectively at the end of an instructional period to review and solidify the various details and processes within the given assignments.

Excerpt: Delegation: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

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womanonscreen

Critical thinking can be defined as “learning to think better by improving one’s thinking skills.” Individuals who are critical thinkers use the thinking process to analyze (consider and reflect) and synthesize (piece together) what they have learned or are currently learning. Unfortunately, much of everyone’s thinking tends to be biased, imprecise, unclear, uninformed or prejudiced. Since this becomes severely limiting, critical thinking is needed to improve its quality and value.

Within the organizational setting critical thinking is necessary for: overcoming problems, making changes, modifications or adaptations within work structures, methods and problem solving situations, resolving situational conflict and pressing issues, and inventing and implementing new ideas, techniques and solutions.

Critical thinking development is a gradual process. It requires: mastering plateaus of learning as well as maintaining a serious focus on the process itself, changing personal habits of thought, which tends to be a long-range project, and extensive development time.

Within the process of critical thinking it is important to recognize what does not comprise its basic elements or components. Critical thinking is not accomplished by: saying something without carefully thinking it through, taking a guess at what one thinks “should” be done, memorizing material to analyze, discuss or examine, doing something just because it has always been done, believing something because it is what everyone else tends to believe, or arguing about something when there are no facts to back up the argument.

Critical Thinking Qualities

There are certain qualities critical thinkers possess and these characteristics tend to categorize individuals as “deep thinkers,” which separates them from more typical “basic thinkers.” Critical thinkers tend to be self-disciplined, self-directed, self-monitored and self-corrective thinkers. They raise essential or crucial questions and problems and then proceed to formulate them clearly and precisely. Critical thinkers gather, assemble, evaluate and appraise relevant information. They come to well-reasoned deductions, conclusions and solutions, while measuring and testing them against relevant standards and criteria. They also keep an open mind within alternative systems of thought while continually recognizing and assessing their assumptions and lines of reasoning. Finally, critical thinkers communicate effectively with others in seeking out and determining solutions for challenges and problems.

There tends to be six developmental thinking phases that lead to “mastering” the art of critical thinking. Through extensive practice and applications of the process, individuals can expect to begin altering and eventually changing their individual habits of thought. Each progressive phase is described below.

Phase One: The Unenlightened Thinker — individuals generally are not consciously aware that significant problems do exist within their current patterns of thinking.

Phase Two: The Confronted Thinker — individuals are aware that existing problems are evident or apparent within their process of thinking.

Phase Three: The Novice Thinker — individuals try to initiate improvements within their thinking, but without relying on regular or consistent practice.

Phase Four: The Proactive Thinker — individuals do recognize the importance of regular practice to improve and enhance their thinking.

Phase Five: The Developed Thinker — individuals begin to advance in accordance with the amount of practice that is awarded to the process.

Phase Six: The Mastery Thinker — individuals become skilled and insightful, where reflective, analytical and evaluative thinking becomes second nature.

Individuals can only develop through these phases if they accept the fact that there are serious problems with their current processes and methods of thinking, and are able to accept the challenge that their thinking presents to them and make it a point to begin regular practice to improve and enhance the components and elements of critical thinking.

Critical Thinking Relies Upon Clarity of Purpose

In order to develop critical thinking, it is important for individuals to be clear as to the purpose of the task or topic at hand, and the main question that is at issue in regard to it. To accomplish this goal, it is essential to: strive to be clear, accurate, precise and relevant, practice thinking beneath the surface, be logical and fair-minded, apply critical thinking skills to all reading, writing, speaking and listening activities, and apply these skills to all aspects of work as well as life in general.

Questioning: The Impetus for Critical Thinking

Dead questions reflect dead minds. Unfortunately, most individuals, (even managers, leaders and trainers) tend not to ask many thought-stimulating types of questions. They tend to stick to dead questions like, “Is this going to be what is expected from now on?” or, “How are we supposed to understand (or do) this?” and other questions that outwardly imply the desire not to think.

Some managers, leaders, trainers or facilitators in turn are not themselves generators of in-depth questions and answers of their own making, which aids in establishing non-critical thinking environments. These individuals are not seriously engaged in thinking through or rethinking through their own initiatives, issues, concerns, topics or instructional concepts and resort to being mere purveyors of the “questions and answers of others.” They often end up initiating or responding to some initial concerns or issues that tend to surface spontaneously during a discussion or meeting, without having personal background information that would otherwise help stimulate deeper levels of creative probing and evaluative questioning. Sometimes they tend to apply second-hand information, knowledge or questions that have been passed down, which limits creative assessments and deeper level questioning. Often they find themselves referencing authors or others who are considered to be experts or leaders in their field rather than questioning important workplace-related issues, ideas, methods or concerns that need to be probed in-depth.

Questioning Through Critical Thinking Keeps the Organization Alive

Every company stays alive only to the extent that fresh questions are generated and taken seriously. These questions are then used as the driving force for generating and implementing changes. To think through or rethink anything, individuals within an organization must ask questions that stimulate deeper levels of thought. Questions define tasks, express problems and identify issues. While answers on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when answers generate further questions does thought continue to add value in terms of personal as well as organizational growth and change.

It is important to remember that individuals within an organization, who generate and ask serious and insightful questions, are the ones who are, in fact, truly thinking, developing and learning. It is possible to move an organization forward by just asking employees to list all of the questions that they have about an issue, method or topic, including all questions generated by their first list of questions. However, deep questions drive out thoughts that rest underneath the surface of things and force individuals to deal with complexity. While questions of purpose force individuals to define “their task,” questions of information force individuals to look at their source(s) of information as well as its quality.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Six Ways You Can Destroy Trust and Credibility

with 4 comments

stressedwoman

Leaders can be so caught up in the flurry of daily tasks and activities that they easily stumble into many pitfalls resulting in broken trusts with and betrayals of employees. Many of these actions are inadvertent, yet consequences can compound over time as unresolved conflicts build in employees’ minds.

The desire for building trust is an attitude that leaders either have or must develop if they wish to be successful. It is an essential building block of leadership. If leaders are unable to nurture a workplace grounded in an appreciation for the power of trust, instead of lead they will only be able to manage and direct using fear as the primary motivator.

This is important for leaders to appreciate because of the ease in which they can stumble into past management practices that undermine rather than cultivate employee trust. It may take time and effort to foster a personal attitude of trust, but when leaders do they will find their employees more effective, cooperative and productive. The alternative is an atmosphere of mistrust and betrayal where continual conflict, ineffectiveness and quality problems reign—and worsen over time.

Many leaders can easily stumble into a myriad of pitfalls and practices that undermine their ability to build and foster trust with their employees. The stress and demands of daily work make it easy for a leader to overlook many of their actions without understanding their attendant consequences. These can include:

Inconsistency

When leaders are reactive rather than proactive, they are often inconsistent in their actions. A decision made in reaction to a specific event or circumstance can be inconsistent with a similar decision made at another time. While both may seem logical at the time, this inconsistency creates a sense of mistrust in employees since they have little or no idea what to expect from the leader’s behavior.

Other inconsistencies occur when leaders show favoritism toward one employee over another. Employees don’t feel they are treated fairly and, consequently, will not trust the leader’s judgment.

Reluctance to Share Information

Many managers and leaders are reluctant to share facts and figures with their employees because they feel unable to trust them with the information. This attitude clearly and completely sets the tone in the organization. If a leader shares information freely, he or she will find that employees will in turn begin to share information with them. This builds an atmosphere of mutual trust and open communication.

The leader reluctant to trust employees with information shuts down this critical two-way communication and limits the organization’s ability to grow and adapt to change.

Lack of Personal Trust

Leaders must learn to trust their own personal judgment and competency. They must accept that they will make mistakes, be willing to learn from them, and move on.

As leaders face a daily barrage of information, feedback and data, they must learn to take time out of the day to do nothing but “let the dust settle.” This enables them to see things more clearly and in their entirety, to identify what needs to be done, and as time spent with employees is usually more important than any other item on the agenda, where time needs to be spent in order to build trust.

Lack of Open Dialogue

Building or rebuilding trust among employees is one of the biggest challenges leaders face. Downsizing and mergers have taken a toll on workplace trust, making employees more territorial wondering if they need to work to protect their jobs. Leaders must acknowledge these fears and anxieties and open a dialogue allowing employees to vent their fears and anxieties.

Refusal to Deal with the Past

Many leaders feel that the past events and circumstances that may have caused employees to feel betrayed are just that—in the past, and should be ignored. Yet it is a clear mistake to ignore these unresolved conflicts, as they will continue to fester and undermine any efforts to reestablish trust.

As leaders open a dialogue with employees, these issues should be allowed to surface and be dealt with. While it is true that the past cannot be changed, these personal feelings must be resolved before trust can be truly established.

Lack of Clarity of Beliefs and Values

In the heat of organizational change, the beliefs and values of the organization can get lost or muddled. Leaders must take the time to clarify fundamental beliefs and translate them into commonly held and agreed upon values. This allows leaders to align their organization with the company’s values and beliefs.

Excerpt: Building & Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

You Are Judged by the Actions You Take

Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

 Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

 Can You Be Trusted? The Answer May Surprise You

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Six Steps to Educate Employees About Delegated Tasks and Assignments

with 5 comments

Leaders teach employees how to perform their delegated assignments and tasks in order to assure their timely and accurate completion. An effective method of educating employees both ensures complete understanding of assignments and addresses productive ways to complete them successfully.

When tasks are delegated, many leaders become frustrated by the inability of employees to complete assignments in a timely and competent manner. Leaders often feel completing assignments by themselves is easier and faster. This becomes an excuse and a barrier to delegating altogether. It also hampers the leader’s ability to grow and increase their productivity.

Leaders understand that when they begin to delegate tasks and assignments, time and patience are needed to educate their employees to perform competently.

Leaders regularly delegate assignments, but continue to see employees fall short of assignment completion and the expectations set for them. This is often the result of assignments or tasks being misunderstood, ignored, forgotten or viewed as overwhelming. These negative outcomes are generally attributed to improper or ineffective employee education.

Leaders know that in order to increase productivity and results, the first step is to properly educate their employees in how they want the task and assignment carried out and how specifically to do it. Employees must also be made aware of set time frames for accomplishing the work and the desired results the leader expects.

While employees may stumble initially, leaders understand that their proficiency will increase greatly with time and experience.

Use of the following six-step instructional method is a top priority for leaders because it eliminates unsuccessful assignment implementation and completion.

Review the Assignment

In order to effectively educate employees, leaders begin by previewing the overall assignment, task or responsibility. They look at all the components necessary to complete it effectively in a timely fashion and review their personal expectations in regard to it. Developing notes and reference points to use when meeting with individuals to be assigned is essential.

Explain Clearly and Carefully

One main responsibility in educating employees is to make instructions as clear and precise as possible. Leaders know that explaining clearly is a twofold process. They need to present their information in a way that is logical and free of confusion or ambiguity. The other side of clarity is how an employee perceives, interprets and responds to the instructions.

Leaders make it a point to use vocabulary that is on the employee’s level of understanding. Specific examples are used that relate directly to the tasks and expectations within the given assignment. Leaders carefully organize and sequence the components of each task to be assigned. They eliminate irrelevant or unrelated information and are logical and realistic in their expectations and requirements.

Apply ‘Think Time’

It is vital to explain in detail the work that needs to be done. Leaders need to both offer ideas or suggestions as to how best accomplish it and build in “think time” for employees to ponder and absorb what is being said. These are pauses inserted between major points of discussion, and include various essential components related to the task or the employee’s questions regarding the assignment.

There is a time difference between hearing and comprehending. People talk much faster than one can actually listen. This is why leaders make it a point to explain small portions of an overall assignment within a given time frame, affording the necessary space for employees to think through the instructions and various responsibilities that apply to all aspects of their assignment. Additional time is allowed to formulate questions and concerns so employees feel thoroughly prepared.

Assign Reference Materials and Individual Resource People

There may be times throughout the course of an assignment when an employee needs to use outside resources. Leaders cover these contingencies in their instructions.

Employees should be given the names of two or more people that can help them in problem situations. Reference materials should also be offered with detailed explanations of how they can be used and for what types of situations. Discussions and illustrations on how and where to find solutions to problems pertaining to their assignments need to be included in the instructional process.

Repeat and Readdress Directions and Specific Points

As total understanding is key to task achievement, leaders consistently repeat and readdress major points, issues and detailed components of assignments. This repetition focuses the employee’s attention on what is being said. Repeating and readdressing issues also helps leaders avoid inserting last-minute changes in their assignments and/or instructions. It is also a good way to survey the understanding levels of an employee. Leaders find many employees are ready to begin their assignments immediately after one good instructional period. Many will need little or no intervention and prodding afterward.

Self-Test for Assignment Understanding

Leaders encourage employees to test themselves in instructional areas that are not clear to them. The process includes being able to identify and openly state the main idea of the various components, steps, actions and responsibilities in their assignments. They should be able to recall exact directives of each separate phase of their assignment. Employees should be able to verbally detail what they need to do, when it needs to be done, and how best to accomplish it.

Ideas, concepts, methods or areas that remain unclear need to be revisited. Instructions should be given again in a learning style best suited to achieving total understanding. Leaders find that self-testing works effectively at the end of an instructional period to review and solidify the various details and processes within the given assignments.

Excerpt: Delegation: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about effective delegation methods and techniques, refer to Delegation: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more

________________________________________________________________________
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It
and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Six Ways You Can Destroy Trust and Credibility

with 3 comments

Leaders can be so caught up in the flurry of daily tasks and activities that they easily stumble into many pitfalls resulting in broken trusts with and betrayals of employees. Many of these actions are inadvertent, yet consequences can compound over time as unresolved conflicts build in employees’ minds.

The desire for building trust is an attitude that leaders either have or must develop if they wish to be successful. It is an essential building block of leadership. If leaders are unable to nurture a workplace grounded in an appreciation for the power of trust, instead of lead they will only be able to manage and direct using fear as the primary motivator.

This is important for leaders to appreciate because of the ease in which they can stumble into past management practices that undermine rather than cultivate employee trust. It may take time and effort to foster a personal attitude of trust, but when leaders do they will find their employees more effective, cooperative and productive. The alternative is an atmosphere of mistrust and betrayal where continual conflict, ineffectiveness and quality problems reign—and worsen over time.

Many leaders can easily stumble into a myriad of pitfalls and practices that undermine their ability to build and foster trust with their employees. The stress and demands of daily work make it easy for a leader to overlook many of their actions without understanding their attendant consequences. These can include:

Inconsistency

When leaders are reactive rather than proactive, they are often inconsistent in their actions. A decision made in reaction to a specific event or circumstance can be inconsistent with a similar decision made at another time. While both may seem logical at the time, this inconsistency creates a sense of mistrust in employees since they have little or no idea what to expect from the leader’s behavior.

Other inconsistencies occur when leaders show favoritism toward one employee over another. Employees don’t feel they are treated fairly and, consequently, will not trust the leader’s judgment.

Reluctance to Share Information

Many managers and leaders are reluctant to share facts and figures with their employees because they feel unable to trust them with the information. This attitude clearly and completely sets the tone in the organization. If a leader shares information freely, he or she will find that employees will in turn begin to share information with them. This builds an atmosphere of mutual trust and open communication.

The leader reluctant to trust employees with information shuts down this critical two-way communication and limits the organization’s ability to grow and adapt to change.

Lack of Personal Trust

Leaders must learn to trust their own personal judgment and competency. They must accept that they will make mistakes, be willing to learn from them, and move on.

As leaders face a daily barrage of information, feedback and data, they must learn to take time out of the day to do nothing but “let the dust settle.” This enables them to see things more clearly and in their entirety, to identify what needs to be done, and as time spent with employees is usually more important than any other item on the agenda, where time needs to be spent in order to build trust.

Lack of Open Dialogue

Building or rebuilding trust among employees is one of the biggest challenges leaders face. Downsizing and mergers have taken a toll on workplace trust, making employees more territorial wondering if they need to work to protect their jobs. Leaders must acknowledge these fears and anxieties and open a dialogue allowing employees to vent their fears and anxieties.

Refusal to Deal with the Past

Many leaders feel that the past events and circumstances that may have caused employees to feel betrayed are just that—in the past, and should be ignored. Yet it is a clear mistake to ignore these unresolved conflicts, as they will continue to fester and undermine any efforts to reestablish trust.

As leaders open a dialogue with employees, these issues should be allowed to surface and be dealt with. While it is true that the past cannot be changed, these personal feelings must be resolved before trust can be truly established.

Lack of Clarity of Beliefs and Values

In the heat of organizational change, the beliefs and values of the organization can get lost or muddled. Leaders must take the time to clarify fundamental beliefs and translate them into commonly held and agreed upon values. This allows leaders to align their organization with the company’s values and beliefs.

Excerpt: Building & Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about trust building techniques, refer to Building & Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

August 18, 2011 at 10:01 am

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

with one comment

Critical thinking can be defined as “learning to think better by improving one’s thinking skills.” Individuals who are critical thinkers use the thinking process to analyze (consider and reflect) and synthesize (piece together) what they have learned or are currently learning. Unfortunately, much of everyone’s thinking tends to be biased, imprecise, unclear, uninformed or prejudiced. Since this becomes severely limiting, critical thinking is needed to improve its quality and value.

Within the organizational setting critical thinking is necessary for: overcoming problems, making changes, modifications or adaptations within work structures, methods and problem solving situations, resolving situational conflict and pressing issues, and inventing and implementing new ideas, techniques and solutions.

Critical thinking development is a gradual process. It requires: mastering plateaus of learning as well as maintaining a serious focus on the process itself, changing personal habits of thought, which tends to be a long-range project, and extensive development time.

Within the process of critical thinking it is important to recognize what does not comprise its basic elements or components. Critical thinking is not accomplished by: saying something without carefully thinking it through, taking a guess at what one thinks “should” be done, memorizing material to analyze, discuss or examine, doing something just because it has always been done, believing something because it is what everyone else tends to believe, or arguing about something when there are no facts to back up the argument.

Critical Thinking Qualities

There are certain qualities critical thinkers possess and these characteristics tend to categorize individuals as “deep thinkers,” which separates them from more typical “basic thinkers.” Critical thinkers tend to be self-disciplined, self-directed, self-monitored and self-corrective thinkers. They raise essential or crucial questions and problems and then proceed to formulate them clearly and precisely. Critical thinkers gather, assemble, evaluate and appraise relevant information. They come to well-reasoned deductions, conclusions and solutions, while measuring and testing them against relevant standards and criteria. They also keep an open mind within alternative systems of thought while continually recognizing and assessing their assumptions and lines of reasoning. Finally, critical thinkers communicate effectively with others in seeking out and determining solutions for challenges and problems.

There tends to be six developmental thinking phases that lead to “mastering” the art of critical thinking. Through extensive practice and applications of the process, individuals can expect to begin altering and eventually changing their individual habits of thought. Each progressive phase is described below.

Phase One: The Unenlightened Thinker — individuals generally are not consciously aware that significant problems do exist within their current patterns of thinking.

Phase Two: The Confronted Thinker — individuals are aware that existing problems are evident or apparent within their process of thinking.

Phase Three: The Novice Thinker — individuals try to initiate improvements within their thinking, but without relying on regular or consistent practice.

Phase Four: The Proactive Thinker — individuals do recognize the importance of regular practice to improve and enhance their thinking.

Phase Five: The Developed Thinker — individuals begin to advance in accordance with the amount of practice that is awarded to the process.

Phase Six: The Mastery Thinker — individuals become skilled and insightful, where reflective, analytical and evaluative thinking becomes second nature.

Individuals can only develop through these phases if they accept the fact that there are serious problems with their current processes and methods of thinking, and are able to accept the challenge that their thinking presents to them and make it a point to begin regular practice to improve and enhance the components and elements of critical thinking.

Critical Thinking Relies Upon Clarity of Purpose

In order to develop critical thinking, it is important for individuals to be clear as to the purpose of the task or topic at hand, and the main question that is at issue in regard to it. To accomplish this goal, it is essential to: strive to be clear, accurate, precise and relevant, practice thinking beneath the surface, be logical and fair-minded, apply critical thinking skills to all reading, writing, speaking and listening activities, and apply these skills to all aspects of work as well as life in general.

Questioning: The Impetus for Critical Thinking

Dead questions reflect dead minds. Unfortunately, most individuals, (even managers, leaders and trainers) tend not to ask many thought-stimulating types of questions. They tend to stick to dead questions like, “Is this going to be what is expected from now on?” or, “How are we supposed to understand (or do) this?” and other questions that outwardly imply the desire not to think.

Some managers, leaders, trainers or facilitators in turn are not themselves generators of in-depth questions and answers of their own making, which aids in establishing non-critical thinking environments. These individuals are not seriously engaged in thinking through or rethinking through their own initiatives, issues, concerns, topics or instructional concepts and resort to being mere purveyors of the “questions and answers of others.” They often end up initiating or responding to some initial concerns or issues that tend to surface spontaneously during a discussion or meeting, without having personal background information that would otherwise help stimulate deeper levels of creative probing and evaluative questioning. Sometimes they tend to apply second-hand information, knowledge or questions that have been passed down, which limits creative assessments and deeper level questioning. Often they find themselves referencing authors or others who are considered to be experts or leaders in their field rather than questioning important workplace-related issues, ideas, methods or concerns that need to be probed in-depth.

Questioning Through Critical Thinking Keeps the Organization Alive

Every company stays alive only to the extent that fresh questions are generated and taken seriously. These questions are then used as the driving force for generating and implementing changes. To think through or rethink anything, individuals within an organization must ask questions that stimulate deeper levels of thought. Questions define tasks, express problems and identify issues. While answers on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when answers generate further questions does thought continue to add value in terms of personal as well as organizational growth and change.

It is important to remember that individuals within an organization, who generate and ask serious and insightful questions, are the ones who are, in fact, truly thinking, developing and learning. It is possible to move an organization forward by just asking employees to list all of the questions that they have about an issue, method or topic, including all questions generated by their first list of questions. However, deep questions drive out thoughts that rest underneath the surface of things and force individuals to deal with complexity. While questions of purpose force individuals to define “their task,” questions of information force individuals to look at their source(s) of information as well as its quality.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about critical thinking techniques, refer to Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

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