What Was I Thinking: “In-Active” Thinking


We will assume that you have people under your sphere of responsibility who, when faced with a project, problem, conflict or task, chooses to be inactive, do nothing at all, or do the bare minimum. These folks consume 80% of our management time. We are surprised to realize that only 3% of the people are like this. We believe the group to be  larger because of the time they consume.

I ask leaders: “What do you do to get inactive people going?”

Common answers are:

“Assign specific tasks with regular and repeated reporting requirements.”

“Give them critical reviews and hold their feet to the fire.”

“Have a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting.”

“Keep the pressure on them.”

These tactics are effective; they do work. Fact is, if you apply enough pressure and discomfort, you can get them to do pretty much whatever you want.

But then I ask: “What do you suppose these folks are doing when you are not there applying pressure?” Laughter breaks out.

Everyone knows their tactics do not get to the root cause to cure the problem, but are simply gimmicks to temper the problem. The problem is not the behavior. It is in the thinking and choices. How do inactive people think?

Some examples of inactive thinking:
Impotent: Nothing I can do about it.

No Hope: Nothing I do will make any difference.
Aimless: It is not worth the effort.

Cynical: Why should I bust my ___ for ___?
Trivial:  I’m not going to waste my time on/for ___.

Ineffective: That will never work

Vain: This will be futile

Enervate: That’s lame

People who think in impotent, no hope terms will make impotent, no hope choices, resulting in doing very little or nothing. If we want to change outcomes, we must challenge the person to change their thinking to #ThinkWell.

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