I vividly remember being a Junior in High School and having to make the decision about what AP classes I would take Senior year. AP English was a definite. As the Editor of my school newspaper—and soon to be college journalism major—AP English was completely up my alley. Nothing was more appealing than spending a good portion of Senior year diving into Victorian Novels, writing weekly essays and debating themes and nuances with classmates.
But I also made the decision to take AP Calculus and AP Statistics. Not because I am good at math. Not because I enjoy math. But because I was wholeheartedly determined to take these classes with the sole goal of doing well enough on my AP exams to place out of math in college.
My strategy worked. Somehow, this right-brained thinker managed to pull off the grades needed on both AP exams to place out of math for all of college. Success!
I remember being 18-years-old and believing—with great confidence—that my future would never involve math, analytics, statistics or that hard left-brain thinking “stuff.” Instead, my career would involve writing, story-telling, ideation, strategy and vision. I didn’t need math, I told myself.
I was partially right. As a marketer and creator, I certainly don’t spend my days solving problems by relying on the Intermediate Value Theorem. I don’t need to have the slightest clue as to what is the chi-square distribution or why you would use it.
But here’s where I was wrong.
Every single job today requires both left- and right-brain thinking. While we can pick career pathways and pursuits that align more strongly to our processing tendencies, there is not a single profession today that does not call for both creative and artistic thinking, right alongside analytical and methodical thinking. As such, today’s professionals—successful ones—need to embrace both mindsets.
Take my job as a Marketer, for instance. As a leader of Marketing, I need to be able to balance strong branding, effective story-telling and creative vision, with a sharp focus on the KPIs that indicate a marketer’s success. Things like: website traffic, MQLs sourced, email marketing click-through rates, blog site visits… the list goes on. It’s OK that I favor one side of Marketing over the other; we all favor certain parts of our job more than others. But I have to make sure I am accounting for the other side… either on my own, through my team, or with help from a third-party vendor.
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Countless articles and research suggest that today’s leaders need to be both visionary and data-driven. It’s an interesting concept if you think about. We are asking our leaders to embrace mindsets and tendencies that are typically in stark contrast to one another. Invention, intuition and creativity are typically at odds with logic, pragmatism and analytics. Yet we are asking leaders to be responsible for both. To be more well-rounded.
So… if we need to be both visionary and data-driven, and embrace both right- and left-brain thinking as leaders, how do can we manage to do both when we are more dominant with one side?
I have long been a believer of the Gallup CliftonStrengths concept, suggesting that employee disengagement and frustration comes when we do not align our employees in jobs that feed into their inherent talents and strengths. Gallup research contends that we should choose careers and roles that support our natural gifts. It would, in many ways, support the belief that it’s OK to be stronger at right- or left-brained thinking. Because instead of being strong at both, we can instead assemble teams that round us out in areas in which we are not inherently strong. Right-brained thinkers can have left-brained thinkers on their team, and vice versa. This allows each of us to be great at what makes us great, and partner with others in the areas that make them great. It’s how we get to be both visionary and data-driven at the exact same time. It’s how we get to master both left- and right-brain thinking.
Where Do You Sit?
Think about your role for a moment. Think about the parts of your job that you easily master, the ones that cause you headaches and the parts that really challenge you… and not always in the best way.
If you are an Executive Director of a Non Profit, for instance, you may excel at forming solid donor relations and hiring top talent. But you may struggle with determining how to use reports and visualizations to be able to properly demonstrate your impact to your stakeholders.
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Or maybe you lead Sales for a medium-sized company and you’re a master at tracking pipeline, closed won/closed lost, and customer up- and cross-sell, but you don’t feel as confident at coming up with unique selling propositions.
As leaders, we have a responsibility is to be self-aware enough to know where we are strong so we can bring our absolute best to the companies, teams and communities we serve. But we need to be equally aware about the things that do not come as naturally to us, and make sure we assemble teams, vendors and partners that excel in those areas to make us as well-positioned for success as possible.
We don’t need to be great at both right- and left-brain thinking. We just need to be great about assembling top-notch teams that allow our departments to collectively master both.
Trilix helps companies just like yours round out your right- and left-brained thinkers with our team of consultants and strategists. Learn more about our Consulting & Advisory offering, and how you can round out your team, by clicking here.