Develop a Long Term Bias

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting in a room with a group of CEO’s from Central Florida. Dr. Sam Certo, the head of the MBA program for Rollins College, was leading a conversation around the idea of “wisdom” in business practices. My curiosity prompted a question regarding the patience required to think long-term in a fast paced business environment.

Initially, it appeared that Dr. Certo was only mildly intrigued by the question because he seemed distracted by a need to find a pen from the table. The second I finished my long winded inquiry he tossed the pen at me. Surprised and concerned I reflexively quit paying attention to my question and immediately caught the pen. Dr. Certo affirmed my cat like reflexes, and assumed that my years of watching baseball had paid off in that moment.

Immediately that interaction became an object lesson around the reality that we have a “reflexive bias” toward short-term rewards in business. What business leaders need to develop is a natural response toward a “reflexive bias” for long-term health. Jim Collins beautifully illustrates the truth about the power of long-term thinking in his book, “Great By Choice” in the chapter entitled the 20 Mile March. The economic reward for pacing your business in such a way that you are able to sustain consistent performance, over chasing short-term achievements is sizable. However, we live in a culture thoroughly committed to our mediocrity and it shows up in a consistent distraction by short term thinking.

To be a better leader, one must cultivate practices that develop a new set of reflexes that allow us to quickly act in ways that are congruent with our long term visions. The exercise of these practices will allow leaders to flourish in an environment built on speed, and do it in a way that promotes sustainable growth. What leadership development practices do you employ to help you overcome the reflexive bias toward short-term thinking?