Cob Web Removal for the Left Brained

By Linda Henman, Ph.D.

Much of my work involves preparing top performers in the financial arena for promotion. Typically these people have an outstanding facility for numerical problem solving, which is commensurate with making high caliber financial decisions. They understand complex relationships in numbers and usually demonstrate exceptional logical thinking.

Do you feel a “however” coming?

However, at the top of their game, they often neglect the right side of their brains, and a type of cognitive cob web forms. Their left-brain activities explained their success as they climbed the quantitative ladder of success, so why change horses now?

The top of an organization is like the top of any league—the stakes are higher, the game is tougher, and only the rare few who can adapt to the volatile, every-changing playing field stand a chance of remaining contenders, much less dominating. The analytical skills that got you here won’t get you there unless you augment them with more creative problem solving and decision making.

What should you do?

A few years ago I coached a senior finance person who found himself in this scenario. I encouraged him to explore avenues to stimulate his creativity. Go to new restaurants; see a play; visit a museum; buy tickets to a concert. Above all else I encouraged him to start reading fiction. Thirty days later he reported that he had done all five, and his wife wanted to send me flowers.

Devoting an hour a day to reading fiction does several things. First, it improves your writing and speaking. Second, it triggers the “pretend” part of the brain, which can lead to more creative thinking, and it makes you a better conversationalist.

I find that most people enjoy the novels by Nelson Demille. In fact, I told one client that if he didn’t laugh out loud in the first ten pages of the novel, I’d buy him dinner. Pat Conroy is my all-time favorite, with Great Santini coming in as a favorite among my male clients. (My favorite is Beach Music, but some left-brainers have a tough time starting there).

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