Getting Above the Maze: Why Leaders Need to Set Aside Time to Think

By Stacy Ennis: An Interview with Brent Patmos, founder and president of Perpetual Development, Inc., and part of The Complete Leader faculty

When was the last time you set aside time to think? As in, scheduled thinking time on your calendar, “unplugged” from electronics, and thought intentionally about a topic?

For many leaders, the answer is “never.” For Brent Patmos, founder and president of Perpetual Development, Inc., thinking is something he does regularly—and teaches other leaders how to do, too. In fact, his entire focus as part of The Complete Leader faculty is helping leaders develop clear thinking skills.

Brent describes clear thinking as “the ability to be self-aware so the leader can see things with greater mental and practical clarity.” It’s intentionally setting aside time to process all of the goings-on in one’s life and business. It’s consistently allowing oneself the space to focus. And it takes responsibility and maturity, he says, to develop the skill of clear thinking.

The results can be profound. Brent explains that when a leader focuses on quality of thought, it has a multiplying effect within an organization. The more thoughtful a leader is, the more thoughtful his organization becomes.

Brent knows from experience the impact of clear thinking. As a boy, he worked in his mother’s floral business, sweeping the floors, picking up plant cuttings, and helping around the shop. Once he received his driver’s license, he started delivering floral arrangements. 

He recalls the discomfort of delivering prom corsages and boutonnieres to his high school friends—friends he would see later that night at prom. But even in high school, he demonstrated clear thinking: “It was a little odd for a moment, then the moment passed.  My desire to make money and do a good job exceeded the awkwardness of delivering flowers to my friends, so it was okay.”

After graduating college, he was recruited to work at a retail company. By the time he left 14 years later, he was an operational executive in the organization. As he thought through his career, he realized he wanted to have a bigger impact: helping advance the performance of individuals and their companies. 

When he founded Perpetual Development, Inc., he spent time thinking about his background and what his experiences could offer. It took time and effort to recognize the connectivity in his background: working with privately held and family-run businesses. That experience is now nearly three decades strong.

“When you take the time to think through all of the events that have taken place over the course of your life, you begin to see a connectivity,” he explains. That thinking process is kind of like being in a maze. “If you’re in that maze, you only see the wall or the next entrance you’re trying to work around to get to the conclusion. But if you stand above the maze, it all becomes much more obvious.”

Brent now sets aside time every week for a “thinking day”—time to purposefully think through the various topics and challenges important to his life and business. 

“One of the things I remind myself—because I’ve seen it happen so many times—is doing without thinking produces less than an optimal outcome,” Brent says. Performance in any role can only improve from dedicated thinking time. 

Thinking clearly is a skill that is “simplex,” he adds, or simple in statement but complex in understanding and developing. The first step? Consistently setting aside time to think. And that’s what Brent hopes all leaders will do, starting today.