The Third Path

As a kid, I loved the show McGyver. Yes, it was totally absurd that he could open a safe with a bottle of water, 4 wine glasses, and some gum. What I loved was not that he knew that stuff, but that he was able to think about those things during incredibly stressful times. Most of our minds shut down during stress and we can only think of Fight or Flight. He found the Third Path.

The Third Path concept is this - our brains are amazing and can come up with all kinds of solutions when we are relaxed. However, when under stress and pressure, our minds almost shut off and we really only see two paths (consider it the fight or flight idea). In other words, we do our most complete thinking when we are not stressed or under pressure.

Unfortunately, we don't get to pick those moments - we usually don't control when we feel stressed or my guess is few of us would pick it. The skill that can help a manager is to learn to control the stress and open up that mind so it doesn't only see 2 solutions. In other words, develop the skill to see the third path (which then usually leads to a fourth, fifth, sixth, etc.).

As a manager, you will be under pressure and you will see your team under pressure. Find the spots (there are more of them than you think) when you can stop and consciously look for the third path - an idea that will make things go faster, a new process that will create more efficiency, etc. Once you open that path, more potential solutions come to mind.

We all have a bias towards action. Be the one who pauses and helps people find the Third Path.