Thinking about thinking environments

Due to taking my coaching apprenticeship I have been reading a lot more non-fiction, work related books. One big advantage of the commute is that I can read for around 40 mins a day when I go in and always reserve this time for this kind of reading now. This has led me to discover the work of Nancy Kline – how have I functioned in my life without her????

Her book Time to Think, for those who have not read it, is a very readable and eminently sensible (in my humble opinion) exploration of the power of listening. Kline’s premise is that we all have the answers to our problems and know the solutions inside us, if only someone would take the time to listen to us work it out. She outlines the ten principles of a thinking environment which have active listening at the core and it is this conducive environment to thinking that enables us to thinking productively.

This book and Kline’s approach really resonated with me, particularly reading this after undertaking a two day workshop for my apprenticeship where I realised that the more I relaxed into thinking and listening with my coachees, the more they talked and solved their own solutions. By giving them the time and space, as well as the attention, the results were quite remarkable. I also have found that I often like to think and talk outloud in many parts of my life and get a bit tired of unsolicited advice or people jumping in straight into conclusions! Without wishing to sound intolerant, sometimes I just wish to vent or explore ideas with someone engaged, not have them create a solution. This is particularly important for coaching where, as the coach, you must “sit on your hands” so to speak and not jump in with advice and guidance.

Another part of Kline’s book that I found very persuasive was her exploration of incisive questions. This is where, as an active listener, you identify someone’s limiting beliefs and reframe them to help them see new possibilities and connections. I think this could be incredibly powerful and something that I want to try. Kline recommends developing thinking partnerships where you work with someone else to listen and coach, then swap over. You can do these on a regular basis, Kline recommends doing this frequently. I would also like to try this with colleagues. Or my “rant buddies” ha ha.

I’ve been so inspired by reading Time to Think that I have now created an Education Thinking Environment for my direct reports and senior colleagues. We have had two meetings so far and I will post about this another time. What has been fascinating about reading Kline’s book (which is not new by the way, I am just a late developer!) how so many of the situations we find ourselves in deny us the ability to voice our true concerns and think. This must be having a negative effect on our relationships, goals and general wellbeing. Kline argues that we cannot see what is important if we are not given the time to think effectively. One of the things that really struck me about Kline’s work is her compassion and caring. Our mental health and wellbeing, our ability to care, be professional and build effective relationships as well as create meaning in our lives are all connected, and central to being able to think effectively. Having been thinking about the links between yoga, and its philosophy of compassion, and leadership, Kline’s approach really resonated and I have found it reassuring and empowering. So much so that I even shared the chapter on relationships with Mike 🙂

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