Thought Leadership (thought leading) in Meetings

(466 words, 4 minutes to read, a lifetime to ponder, today to implement)

You are in a meeting…yes another one…it’s even a well run meeting…you build on each others ideas…controversial issues are addressed…decisions are made…accountabilities are assigned…action is taken…sign me up…you don’t even have to pinch yourself into reality…

Here is the question:

Did you contribute as a thought leader? Were you an opinion maker…did you have opinions that led the thinking going on? Did you have an angle into the issue that provided insight?

To be an Advantage-Maker is to have an opinion and provide thought leadership. And to be a leader is to provide thought leadership that leads brains…and hearts.

You want change, better be able to convince people of your opinion. To win your people’s hearts and minds you need to provide insight that either they didn’t have before or it confirmed their suspicion but didn’t act on it.

Some opinion making is based upon subject matter expertise. Thought leaders shine. If you are going to follow someone’s advice you want it to be brilliant…you may not get that, but that is what you are after.

So how do you get your management team to follow your opinions without ordering them…they have to make sense to the listener, but to move beyond just a manager into an opinion maker leader you must take a different tact, a different angle into the wind, perhaps a controversial position.

When Barry X Lynn (who wrote the forward to my book, The Advantage-Makers), former CIO of Wells Fargo Bank and CEO of 3Xtera…was first implementing ATM systems, there was a glitch in the system and the newspapers had the issue on front page in San Francisco…give me my money and other such provocative comments.

The CEO called Barry, “maybe we should slow down the project.” Without flinching, Barry said, “We should go faster! There are going to be hiccups, we will try our best to keep them at a minimum, but let’s get this done as soon as we can rather than extend it which will keep it in the papers longer…”

That’s Thought Leadership, an opinion maker that convinced the CEO and his staff to go faster, do it sooner.

We all have opinions…some are more worth listening to and following.

In your meetings be an Opinion Maker…to add real value, develop Big Opinions on the subject,  plus them up, and go at it from different angles. Take your initial opinion and push it a bit, expand it, turn it upside down as Barry did. Perhaps,  when everyone is thinking Big, think small…what matters is you are actively creating Thought that influences. You want to frame the idea so the brains light up.

You are not there just to manage, you are there for Thought Leadership that guides hearts and minds. If you want people to turn to you for advice, for decisions, for your opinion develop your thought leadership that creates advantages.


by Thinka Boutit


The Language of a Thought Leader’s Brain

When you listen, do you hear time?

The past, the present, the future.

When we speak we unconsciously reference time frames

And more substantially, we direct ourselves and others to shift time based upon our language.

How are you doing today?  Time frame is present

How did it go yesterday? Time frame is past

How will we make our numbers? Time frame future

We shift the question and the time frame.

Where do you think thought leaders brains are located in time?

Past, present, future.

No doubt we can hear them speak about things in the past, how it was, and how it is, but it is predominantly designed to construct the future.

As well it should be. To be an originator, a visionary you have to live at least part of the time in an imagined future. Your brain must anticipate and contemplate a future world. Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla said, “Great leaders invent the future they want.” So their present is the future.

If you want to have a bigger impact, have a new future you can describe. What will it look like, sound like, be like. Notice the time frame here, what will it …

JFK … we will send a man to the moon and back safely within the next decade.

And if you want an exercise to boost your brain to generate futures, try changing the verb tense and add in the future of the future will be.

For example, this will get us where we want to go and it will generate a new customer base that will lead to engagements that are at the core of what has, is and will be meaningful for us going forward.

Probability thinking is based upon the past and present conditions and accepting the givens as they are, and reacting to the risks and the likelihood of something working out.

Possibility thinking is based upon the future, it lifts you forward, it anticipates things working out without knowing exactly how or the conditions of the present. This is the province of Advantage-Making thought leaders. It is the brains of the Advantage-Maker creating advantages, originating new ways.

You can hear the future in the language of Thought Leaders.

How will you use this?


A Thought Leaders others turn to you for your opinions?

You may find yourself nodding or shaking your head today at someone else’s comments. In every business, on every talk show, at every meeting we want to know what the Opinion Leader thinks. In the meeting our brains are consciously or unconsciously waiting to hear what the person with the most status in the room thinks. What does she think? What will he do?

Yes, we have our own opinions, and we follow our own thoughts and make our own decisions but we still want to know the Opinion of certain people…the Thought Leader, the Opinion Maker.

One of two things will happen. We will either agree or disagree.

If we agree, we will feel our own opinion is confirmed, we are on the right track.  And this confirmation of our suspicion, as  our opinion is confirmed it increases the likelihood that that person will be considered an influencer in our minds.

If we disagree, we may wrestle with their view, making ours stronger or considering theirs to update our own. In either event, our brains value status and they will continue to be someone we consider in our decisions.

There is a third condition, and that is, you hadn’t even considered the topic, the idea, the possibility

This person is providing guidance along a different line of thought and a new opinion is forming in you.

If you are to create advantages, you must be able to persuade people to your opinion, to lead their thinking, at least to engage their mental set.

Thought leadership creates inspired action. Forced leadership produces shut up and do what the boss tells you to do.

And knowing what we know about brains, it must be emotional. Thought Leaders are emotionally engaging, like a comedian, they must move your from where you are to where they want your brain to be. Obviously some comedians are better than others, they are more adept at their craft. Jerry Seinfeld says it takes him 3 months to prepare a 30 minute skit and 6 months for a 5 minute comedic set. Ready for his brilliant insights? He gets you ready.

There is a part of the brain, the Anterior Cingulate Cortex, that identifies conflicts, and context conflicts. This is the basis of risk and reward, and as such, amplifies or mitigates opinions. Comedians trigger the ACC. They know how to do it so we laugh at ourselves, but the really great ones are opinion makers: Think George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby…

If you are to lead opinions you must be prepared for triggering the anterior cingulate cortex, the ACC. In fact, thought leadership is amplified by controversy or contradiction to the prevailing view.  You don’t have to be a comedian, but shifting perspectives is required.

Shaping ideas, and shaping the ideas of others triggers the ACC so rather than retreat from conflict the next time you feel yourself nodding your head or shaking your head notice how your brain is responding, not just to the content, but to the process of Opinion Making. It can trigger the brains insights,  the leading edge of powerful new advantages you or your colleagues have not considered.

Advantage-Makers brains, are opinion making brains, they get people to listen.


The Neuro-Shifts of Advantage-Making

Your brain is a social organ…

Research has shown the same brain regions that directly indicate you are experiencing physical pain also indicate when you have been socially rejected…. OUCH

In your instinctive brain (brainstem), your well being is handled (fortunately)…and at times mishandled(survival fight or flight)

In your emotional brain (midbrain), your interactions are effective (good feelings) …and at times misunderstood (amydala distress)

In your cognitive brain (neo-cortex) your ideas are thoughtful(anticipate and make good solutions)…and at times misguided (a  narrow perspective reaches the wrong conclusions)


Are you using your brain to your advantage?

You have high stakes challenges, you need to influence your colleagues, you need to create a new strategy, you need to make a decision and get on with it, and balance work with LIFE so to speak.

To do so you need to make targeted neuro-shifts that will support your brainpower. You want your nervous system, the network of interactions, to find ways around the obstacles, When you allow circumstances to dictate your responses, it may be because you aren’t using your brain in strong ways…
Your brain is confident if you
  • a) don’t get in its way or
  • b) know how to move out of negative, counterproductive states…
  • c) shift to advantage-making frameworks…
There may be switching costs to get out of the non-productive neural pathways… but it is less expensive when you know the neuro-shift to make… and it takes a few seconds.
The faster you make the neuro-shift the better…
Your brain likes speed, its economical…
Wasting time repeating what doesn’t work expecting it to be different, is technically – insanity
Neuro-shifts are a quick, small action that can lead to a big gain…  it’s a brain-frame that adopt the right angle to gain a winning perspective
When you are up against an obstacle, limitation, constraint, make the quickest neuro-shift you can:
  • Neuro-Shift the question: The quality of the questions you ask determines the quality of your life…
  • Neuro-Shift  Time: you brain likes things you can do now… good or bad, but now…so do something good now for now or for your future…
  • Neuro-Shift Interactions: replace repeating mishandled interactions with a small opposite, ie. instead of pushing, ask
  • Neuro-Shift Perceptions: orient toward what you want while recognizing dangers; learn the social psychology of influence
  • Neuro-Shift Structures: structure shapes behavior, we have disabling and enabling structures, employing the neuro-structures of success leads to your advantage…

Each neuro-shift will increase your sense of confidence and advance your forward.

To your advantage…

# 42, Jackie Robinson – The Advantage-Maker

“Can you do it? Can you do it?”

asked Branch Rickey during his hiring interview of Jackie Robinson testing his heart, desire and inner fortitude.

The recent release of the movie 42, the story of Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson’s heroic

entrance into a racist all white professional baseball game in 1947 – America’s game, was a stark reminder of
what it’s like when the odds are truly stacked against you – and you prevail.
We’ve known the general outline of the story, Number 42, Jackie Robinson overcame
hatred, ignorance and blatant racism to become a star ball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie became a hero to millions of black children and the hope of their parents. He not
only won the game, he changed the game – a real Advantage-Maker.
But what most of us failed to realize is the scope and depth of insult to his dignity that he endured for the sake
of getting it right, not just for himself, but for the nation. While he was a good and decent man he did not
start out to change a nation, he was a gifted baseball player – his future was the Hall of Fame.
Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers (let it be known right here, that i’m an ardent Yankee fan who
rooted against the Dodgers often) was of equal import to transforming the game and America.
A real Advantage-Maker, he shared the pain, anguish and the delight by his unequalled efforts to integrate the sport of baseball.
One scene between Branch Rickey and Jackie typified the acid test waiting to be dealt with:
Rickey said the opposition and your own teammates will insult you, taunt you, throw insults and spike you. And try to break you, to call you names, and if you fight back they will say you started it, and blame you for anything that they do that’s wrong. What will you do?
Jackie says, “‘Mr. Rickey, Do you want a ballplayer who’s afraid to fight back?”
Branch testing Jackie’s inner fortitude, ‘I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back!’
Jackie and Branch shifted the odds to their favor in the face of enormous obstacles. They changed the game, They didn’t accept the givens, instead they challenged them. Rickey was righting a wrong and Jackie was influencing the world of hatred into a new world of appreciation for his baseball talents and dignity as a man. His refusal to lower himself to the level of the racist fools drew the adulation of millions of sympathetic good people – who themselves wanted to punch the lights out of the indignant racists.
Everything about Jackie Robinson (and Mrs. Rachel Robinson who stood tall with quiet elegance supporting her husband as a man and in the cause of human rights) and Branch Rickey speaks volumes to the code of the Advantage-Makers.  Together they shifted the odds. They demonstrated what it means to literally be in a Different League. Ordinary men, under extraordinary circumstances, performing exceptional feats of courage and skill.
Can you do it? Can you do it?
when its your turn to face the high stakes challenges that matter to you
I know for myself, the Pride of the Yankees would be to root for these dignified men of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Apollo 13 and The Physics of Advantage-Making

How did they get the Apollo 13 astronauts back safely after the near disaster in space?

Remember the scene: deep space, spacecraft breaking apart, oxygen running out, producing more CO2 than can be handled by the crew. A deadly situation.
And then the Director of Operations Control brings the remaining parts that exist on the space capsule to the engineers on the ground.
This is all they have, nothing else; this is the distance and approximate time they have; make it work… Failure is not an option!
The rocket scientist were extraordinary and brilliant. They worked feverishly to figure out the trajectory, the velocity and arrange the parts to produce a big enough result (magnitude) that reduced the CO2 while they limped home to Mother Earth.
They did it!
Thank goodness.
So are you telling me i have to be a rocket scientist to be an Advantage-Maker?
But, all leadership advantages have 3 factors.
1) Trajectory, what is the direction, and if necessary, course correction.
2) Velocity, speed wins, reducing drag, getting rid of friction – I’ll bet you can work the metaphor here
3) Magnitude, big wins, big gains, failure is not an option, big expectations
When you take on a high stakes challenge, consider
1) the trajectory
2) the current and desired velocity
3) the magnitude of the gain you want to create.
This is the internal guidance system of Advantage-Makers.
How’s your guidance system doing?
Do you need to shift your trajectory?
You can work with the constraints to find advantages whether your
high stakes challenge is in space or on planet Earth.


You are an urgencist ™, aren’t you?

Breaking news. You mind is urgently revealing breaking news to you.

No, listen to your thoughts, what are you thinking about,

right now in your mind, without reading any further.
What you just thought is what is urgent to you.
You don’t necessarily take action on every thought, but
in the province of the mind, your thinking is what is urgent.
Your breaking news may not be on the TV news stations or
social media blogs but your thoughts have grabbed your attention
on the big screen news feed, in 3D within your mind.
So what is urgent to you?
Hungry, tired, desiring, more cash, more friends, one special friend,
better leadership, better follower-ship, making the sale, getting the job,
improving conditions at work or home, your health: What is urging you?
We are all urgencist’s ™ – we respond to what is most urgent in our minds.
Sometimes we overrule the thoughts but often our thoughts are reactions to what
isn’t working or what we perceive as most desirable or a best solution to
a problem or opportunity.
Urges, urgency, and urgent are all part of life, business, professional, personal
I’m not talking about emergencies that require life saving responses.
Urgency is a pressing importance, a pressing necessity.
In our minds, our thoughts act as if urgent, grabbing our attention, indispensable,
at least until the next urgent thought arises.
We take action on what we deem most urgent, don’t we?
We are an urgent species. While it is true we rise above our instincts and
quell our emotions, our urges – the good, bad and ugly are all still there
disclosed in our evolution and sophisticated urges.
What i urge you to consider is that the what is urgent to you is
reflected in what your model of the world thinks is possible and
what you think is probable – they are not always the same.
If your life is not what you want it to be, it most likely is because what
you believe to be urgent is acting like an anchor and diminishing your
experience and results.
If you are not able to influence your prospect, its because your haven’t
spoken to her, in the urgent ways she speaks to herself.
When you upgrade your urgencies the quality of your life upgrades as well.
Just remember the last vacation, the time when you just zoned out, took
a breather, felt refreshed, gained an easier perspective, a simpler approach.
Having shifted from the usual location or activity, you open to new urges
or reminders of what really matters.
On a daily basis the question becomes, what urges are worth your time?
And if you are influencing someone, how to tap the urgencies within them so
they perceive your offering an urgent solution.
There is a structure to urgency. Its the single biggest leverage that every great
advantage-maker has unconsciously employed in their pursuits.
We won’t stop the urges or perceived urgencies, there will always be something more,
but we might shift the odds in our favor when we shift the choice of
our urgencies.

Steve Jobs: A Ding in the Universe

Steve Jobs created the ‘ding in the universe’ he so desired.


When my book, The Advantage-makers: how exceptional leaders win by creating opportunities others don’t, was published in 2007, I also announced the FIRST Advantage-Maker of The Year Award: Steve Jobs

He was a transformational pioneer & game changer.

A profound learner who as we know was able to Think Different.


Advantage-Makers interact with the world differently. They shift the odds in their favor in the worst of times and best of times. Their capacity to shift is what distinguishes them. But is it genius and desire in Steve Jobs case, or is it something that we can do in our own lives?


Steve Jobs shifted the world by having us interact differently with his technological toys.

We experience the results of his genius but can we be inspired and encouraged to do it ourselves,

can we, at minimum, approximate and perhaps engage in the same type of thinking that led to the outstanding contribution?


The five shifts of Advantage Makers was evident in Steve Jobs

Shifting the question, time, interactions, perceptions and structures.


Shifting the question – a simple example that changed computers is his questioning the need for a fan in the computer, so computers are quieter, lighter and portable.


Shifting time – as Mayor Bloomberg of New York City said, “Steve Jobs brought the future to the present before most people could even see the horizon …”
Shifting interactions – we interact with the world differently because of the computer tools and technology toys he made user friendly for the consumer. With our smart iPhones we interact with everyone. Our iPads enable us to relate to information differently.


Shifting perceptions – masterful at influencing people to Think Differently. He kept everyone looking to the next cool thing Apple would create.

Shifting structure – here he changed the music industry with ITunes, taking a troubled industry and reviving it to an entirely new way to get your music.


His advantages made the complex, simpler; the hard, easier; the slow, faster; took the existing and multiplied the value; and took the mundane and make it engaging.  These are advantages we use daily.

He shifted the question by questioning the givens that led to new approaches beyond obstacles

He shifted time by imagining and creating the technological future before most of us saw it

He shifted interactions by changing the game and our relationship with technology

He shifted perception by influencing a generation to think different

He shifted structures to shape behavior by creating entire new markets


Thank you Steve Jobs for your legacy of engaging useable devices that changed the world, and for your inspiring Advantage-Making Leadership.


Let’s go out and create our future …


Fastest way to the Moon

Fastest Way to the Moon
Velocity is know-how
Efficiency indicates intelligence
Those in the know go fast, those who don’t go slow.
Tai Chi masters movements are efficient, smooth and ready for lightning fast moves
How to untie the Gordian Knot when your future depends on it?
Cut it.
Complexity belongs to the rocket scientist, not the rocketeers.
Making things complex is not smart, smart is making things simple.
Accelerate around, over, through, under, however you can move past obstacles. 
There is no time like the present to create the future!

How are you perceived? Increaser or knocker

Perception is outcome.

How people perceive you results in the outcomes you get.
I had a distant relative who was always knocking others down.
He found what was wrong in everything. It wasn’t that he was completely wrong,
its that he squashed the hope of young ideas and young dreams.
I didn’t much like being around him.
Neither did most of my relatives. They called him the knocker.
It was a terrible tag.
He taught me a lesson on what not to do with my life.
Whenever i get down on someone or a new idea, i think,
don’t be a knocker.
Contrast the knocker with the increaser
A young intern sits around the dinner table, like so many young adults at so many dinner tables.
He wants more from his internship. More excitement, more fulfillment, more money.
Is he wrong to want more?
Does he or she have to learn their place in the pecking order, put in their dues?
The young intern wants to be in charge. Youth in its irrepressible full glory.
I say Yes to their desire for increase, their desire to grow.
Nature says yes to growth, look around at the abundance of flowers and
verdant green growth for confirmation.
We want to affirm their desire for more, for increase, for multiplying their contribution.
And the best message you can convey to your ‘youth’ is to be a person who grows.
If they want to be successful, they must align themselves with growth, inner and outer.
Ask your young intern sitting around the dinner table,
“Who do you want to be around?”
Someone who diminishes you, who knocks you,  or someone who increases your hopes, dreams.
When they are perceived as the person who creates more for others,
they themselves will win and be able to run things,
as CEO, as leader, as professional, as contributor, as teacher,
Opportunities and gains will swing open to them.
Advantage-Makers are increasers
First comes the desire for more.
Simultaneously, comes the concept of self as an increaser,
 I am an increaser
I increase value, I build, I grow, I multiply the value to others.
Let’s here it for the increasers for they inhabit the earth.