The quality of everything we do is based on the quality of our thinking. Yes, time to think is the most important of all leadership qualities and there are simple leadership skills to achieve this. Same could be boldly said of all personal qualities too. It’s inspired by Nancy Kline’s book, Time to Think and was part of a coffee hour I attended last week with colleagues.
Time to Think – The Premise
Nancy Kline created a system, decades ago now, called Thinking Environment™ encompassing 10 behaviours of how to be with each other. It’s a model for human interaction that improves how people think and therefore the quality of interaction and the results they achieve at work and life. It’s arisen at this time of lockdown when some people have more time and some people are thinking about different things, pondering different questions than previously.
The fundamental premise is to give people time and space to think and to truly listen to others. It’s to have people think for themselves, a concept fully aligned with coaching – to create a safe reflective space for people to come up with their own answers to things that are important to them.
The 10 behaviours Nancy outlines are: Attention, Equality, Ease, Appreciation, Encouragement, Feelings, Information, Diversity, Incisive Questions, Place. Individually they are powerful and when used together they can be transformative.
Time to Think Leadership Skills: Tips
Key leadership skills that reinforce the time to think premise can be used with team members, peers, key stakeholders and even bosses (as well as family members). Some tips are:
Speaking Leadership Skill:
- At the start of a group meeting, especially remote, ask everyone to say something as most people haven’t arrived until they said something. Be specific about what you want them to say given (1) the energy you want to create for the meeting; (2) how long the meeting is and; (3) how many people are attending. It can be as simple as “Share 1 word about how you feel now” or “Share 1 word for you to be present at this meeting” or “Share a sentence of how you’d like the meeting to be.” Of note, this is for a meeting where you want interaction and conversation not a presentation or disseminating information. Although you can still use the concept actually in a presentation where you ask everyone at once to “think to yourself of 1 word to be fully present now.”
- Prompt thinking by asking a question. The mind often thinks best in the presence of a question rather than statements. Ask an open-ended question. An open-ended question is a question that requires more than a YES or NO answer. They usually start with Who, What, When, Where, Why. Not: ARE or DO. Questions starting with WHAT are best. Why questions are my least preferred as they make people defensive, justifying what they just said. More on this in my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS. For example,
- Do you think this solution will work? Closed question, Yes/No.
- What is the likelihood of this solution working? Open question, more thoughtful response to consider.
- Why do you think this solution will work? The person will only look to justify their solution, not consider all possible perspectives.
- Ensure equality or at least fairness in speaking. If people are attending a meeting I assume they are there to contribute, to move the agenda forward, if they are not, why are they invited? Quality organizations want diversity of thinking to ensure the best, most robust answers. Ensuring everyone contributes and will be heard makes for fully formed ideas and solutions. Set the ground rule that if you’re attending you’re expected to contribute, that your input is sought after, invited (unless there is the role of notetaker or observer). Ask for the devil’s advocate opinion, who sees this differently? Ensure it’s not just extroverts and grandstanders who are contributing.
Listening Leadership Skill:
- Allow for thinking by being silent, encouraging silence, inviting thinking. Literally say in a meeting “let’s all take a few minutes to ponder this question.” If you notice people are really unsure when to come back to the discussion say, “I’ll invite sharing after a couple of minutes.” The silence will feel long if people are not used to silence. That’s ok.
- Notice if people are listening to each other. Often people are just contributing their thoughts with no link to what was said before, or sometimes totally dismissing what was said before without even referencing it. As Stephen Covey, my recommended leadership author at the end of my book podcast I shared in my last email, said “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
- What assumptions are you making when people speak? How often do you assume what others want? Or what they need? Rather than really hearing what they are saying, listening to what’s said and what’s not said, ask them to fill in the blanks rather than you making up the answers in your head. What limiting assumptions do you have of yourself? I always said I couldn’t sing. Now that I’ve taken lessons I feel I can sing (at least enough not to mime happy birthday at a party). A colleague assumed she couldn’t run because she had bad hips and injuries after multiple attempts; until a 67-year-old taxi driver told her that he did marathons after 2 hip operations based a conscientious training program. My colleague has now completed a couch to 5km and feels good running.
Quality of Work
Taking time to think (when possible outside an imminent crisis), encouraging others to do the same and sharing those thoughts will positively impact the results, the solution, the culture and the individuals sense of value.
Want time to think about something important to you? Book complimentary quality space and time with me here.