Caldwell: New thoughts lead to new results

As a business person, you are paid for the thoughts you generate and successfully convert into positive results. The more effective the thoughts and the value they generate, the more money and recognition you receive. Action thoughts equal results; results equal income.

Thought Leaders are people who understand that knowledge and ideas have tangible value and consciously operate at a higher business level. A Thought Leader cultivates expertise in a specialized area and is committed to growth, creativity and reinvention. Thought Leaders are irreplaceable and create their own career security.

If you have an inkling that you have been playing a game of "small ball" in your business or career, now is the time to break out of the box and step up to greater opportunities as a Thought Leader.

The temptation is to wait until Jan 1, 2013, to think about this reinvention process. Don’t! Break free of the traditional New Year's resolutions that have the superficial allure of linear, predictable improvement and rewards. Take a risk now. Consider shifting your business mindset, positioning and action plans. In doing so, you will not only become more profitable but also be recognized in your business or industry as a highly sought-after Thought Leader and expert. Is this risky? Yes, absolutely. Is it worth it? In the long run, probably yes. You may not see immediate results, but sooner rather than later it will have a positive effect on your leadership mindset and in your business.

Becoming a Thought Leader is based on the premise that we are all experts in some area of our lives and your ability to translate your expertise into something tangible determines the level of success you will enjoy. To launch this process, analyze the following indicators through a three-step process that I call the "Thought Leader Checkup and Take Charge."

Step 1: Know who you are (and who you aren't) and what you stand for in business and life. What do you know for certain based on your experiences, education and commitments? Analyze your career and look for the patterns of brilliance, inspiration and exceptional performance. You will see the areas where your thoughts turned into actions and positive results.

To be a Thought Leader, you must be resolute. Believe that what you have to say matters in the world. You must be committed to raising awareness about the strategic issues that will transform you, your business or your industry, not just maintaining the status quo. Ask yourself, "What do our clients really want and need? What really matters to them?" Uncover the root cause of big problems and solve those issues. Ignore the superficial annoyances. They will take care of themselves when the larger issues are addressed.

Thought Leaders actively and passionately cultivate their leadership skills and engage communities of like-minded people by achieving the balance between being an expert (vs. a "know-it-all) with a beginner's mind set. Exploiting this paradox of being the student and the authority is a lifelong practice.

You must be willing to lead by example and take responsibility for yourself and your organization. Thought Leaders have opinions about their market and industry and take the risk of being scrutinized and criticized for them. If you take a contrarian view, one that differs from the norm, or advocate for new reforms in your profession, you must be prepared to actively increase your resiliency against criticism. Practice the old adage, "No guts, no glory."

Get unhooked from being liked and seeking other's approval. When you know who you are and what you stand for, the opinions of small-minded cynics do not matter. It takes discipline to keep focused on the mission and leave the small stuff behind.

Step 2: Exercise and build your Thought Leader muscles. Innovative ideas and creative thoughts are not cultivated by multitasking. We've been duped into thinking that we can do everything all at once. It is a myth. Creativity, flow and new thoughts emerge when you are relaxed and focused on one thing at a time. For many Thought Leaders, their best thoughts come while exercising, being in nature, listening to music, driving in the car, or collaborating with others. Find your best time for thought generation and keep a notebook or audio recorder with you at all times to capture these golden nuggets. You never know when the next million-dollar thought will emerge. I carry a small paper notepad, my iPhone audio recorder and use Dragon Naturally Speaking software to convert the audio files into editable text.

Work out your Thought Leader muscles by taking at least 15 to 30 minutes a day to think and write about the topics and subjects you are interested in. Set a timer and just write. Do not edit or buff up your writing, just write. Consider using a Mind Mapping technique to engage both your left and right brain (more information on Mind Mapping is available at Reflect frequently about the trends you see in your writing and take action on the ideas that are emerging. Create a filing system because some thoughts need time to simmer and may be "fully cooked" a few weeks from now.

Step 3: Translate what you know into action. This is the part of the process where you actively move into Thought Leadership, not followership. Become visible as a Thought Leader by writing a blog, book or a column in industry publications. Get engaged in social media and in the online world. Submit a proposal to be a speaker at an upcoming global industry conference and position yourself as an expert and resource to the media. Cultivate relationships with other Thought Leaders and get involved in Mastermind Groups that focus on possibility thinking and massive action.

Taking the time and making the effort to grow your Thought Leadership will grow your business. By engaging in this "Thought Leader Checkup and Take Charge." process you will create new opportunities to realize your personal and professional success and have more fun along the way!

• Kathleen Caldwell is president of Caldwell Consulting Group and the founder of the WHEE Institute (Wealthy, Healthy, Energetic Edge) of Woodstock. She works with leaders and teams to produce serious, meaningful results. She can be reached at, or by phone at 815-206-4014.

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