As human beings, we all have an inherent desire to belong, feel connected and to perform well. To perform well is to think well. To think well for yourself with rigour, courage and imagination. Nancy Kline, best selling author of More Time to Think, observed that ‘the quality of everything we do as human beings, depends upon the quality of thinking we do first’. And it seems this is the case. And so how do we help others think well for themselves? It turns out, it is the way we behave around each other. Creating an environment where everybody knows and feels they matter.
Staggering statistics reveal a reality
And yet in our work places today, we seem to have overlooked the capacity for people to feel engaged, to think well, to perform as well as they might. ADP Research Institute suggests that in the UK, 85% of our workforce are disengaged and who are simply ‘coming to work’ rather than being fully engaged in what they do. The Department for Business Innovation & Skills calculates that disengaged employees cost the UK economy as much as £64 billion every year. These are compelling statistics and further, I wonder about the experience of work. How do we create environments for others to belong, feel connected and perform well at work?
Given these inherent desires as human beings, my curiosity and hope is that we generate more opportunities for individuals to find and nurture their gifts and talents, to feel fulfilled in what they do and to add value to themselves, their families, their teams, their workplace and their community.
It seems we have been unintentionally, unwittingly developing sophisticated victims of dependence on those more senior, with greater expertise or those who write the pay cheque. We see individuals following blindly in random compliance or mediocre conformity and lose their sense of self as a human being. This way of being tends to result in a culture of hierarchy, inequality, stepping over diversity towards exclusivity, listening simply waiting to speak and lack of interest in the human being, rather a fixation on the function, the result and hitting the financial target.
An opportunity for a new reality
But there is another way. A way of being with one another to bring out the best in each other. To generate the best thinking and feeling for the good of all people. It is one of the greatest gifts we can offer another human being; a framework to think for yourself, rather than relying on others’ guidance or opinions so that you draw on your own experiences, feelings and creativity. A framework to think as yourself, rather than complying or conforming to what you think others want to hear. Thinking for yourself includes your feelings, and all the forms of intelligence we have access to as human beings.
Courage to care
Helping others perform at their best means letting our team members know they matter. It means enabling them to be the best of themselves. To get their best performance is to get their best thinking. To get their best thinking is to listen. To acknowledge and encourage them. To make them feel valued. It takes courage as a team leader to care and create the environment for independent thinking for the good of all – and it’s worth it.
Being a framework for others to think for themselves
I recently had the opportunity to be a thinking partner for Catherine on a live coaching demo, with Gail Moore of MooreMasterCoaching. In this role, I am there to free the mind, rather than direct it. Catherine is not in the coaching profession, she’s never been coached before and this was the first time that she and I had ever met or spoken.
I had invited Catherine to bring a topic of her choice. Something that was real and meaningful, rather than safe and complete. Her topic: “I am a female health advocate and author in her first year of a health advocacy business. Master Coaching is really needed to empower me to charge for my services, deal with friends who ask for advice and create a more compelling online presence.”
Having contracted for the session, we began. Catherine had many waves of thinking, feeling and expressing out loud what she wanted to say. I listened. Free from interruption and judgement. Her thoughts flowed. I encouraged her, simply in listening more. She gained more clarity about herself and her situation in the freedom of her mind expressing itself, knowing she would not be interrupted. Her heart spoke. She connected deeply with what mattered most to her.
She then said ‘what I realise I want from this session is to find a firmer ground on which to stand to build my business’. Catherine declared for herself what she wanted from our time together, without me asking!
It seems that what stops us accomplishing what we want in life, from a situation, a relationship is the assumptions we hold about ourselves, others or the situation.
And so in the pause of Catherine’s thoughts, I wondered does she want to continue thinking for herself? It seemed she did. I acknowledged to myself the great thinking she had already accomplished. I was clear on what she wanted from our conversation and so I wondered what did she need now and what would be a question to address that need. And so I asked Catherine ‘what might you be assuming that is stopping you from finding a firmer ground on which to stand to build your business?
From this, Catherine had many waves of thinking out loud and many assumptions emerged, some were liberating, more were limiting. After uncovering the assumptions, Catherine revealed with a new driven energy and lightness in her voice ‘I realise that the firmer ground is in fact a statement I can charge for my services’.
Catherine was on her way.
She had just declared an alternative liberating assumption.
My role as a thinking partner was to support her embed that new liberating assumption and connect it to her outcome. And so I asked her ‘If you knew you can charge for your services, what would change for you?’
Catherine came up with so many ideas, sharing with us how she thought differently about her business, herself, the value she brings.
I asked the question a second time ‘If you knew you can charge for your services, what would you do now?’Once more Catherine thought for herself, generating more ideas and actions for herself.
I invited Catherine to record both the question and her ideas whilst still on the call so she could reflect some more and follow through after our conversation. At that point Catherine asked for my help ‘I feel a little stuck when it comes to charging friends, what question could I think about?’
With the invitation to provide Catherine with information, I reflected and offered, ‘What if you considered charging for your services as an experiment?’ Catherine connected immediately with the question and referenced how she loved it, not only because she was a scientist but it also liberated her yet further.
Catherine subsequently shared with me the impact of that question: “At that point, I truly understood that the entire process of developing my business is organic, that of course charging for my services is always an experiment, and that what I believed limited me in creating firm ground on which to stand was illusory, with no more weight than a soap bubble!”
We completed the demo with an appreciation of a quality I recognised in her, and generously Catherine offered one in return.
A week later, Catherine shared the ongoing impact of the session where she had the opportunity to generate her independent thinking:
“I am pleased to say that I have my first paying client as of the last week of May… I have also told a friend I would do X for her (15 min of research and an email) but will have to charge if she wants or needs additional help.
My view of my work has changed dramatically. I now think of the whole business of charging as a necessary prelude for my services. I have essential skills. I decided that through the lens of an experiment, I am freed to consider the issue of charging as an organic process. I can’t thank you and Jane enough for the flexibility I believe the coaching has given me on this issue. I am delighted and no longer weighted down with the heaviness of worry.
I will add here that I have joined a national professional association, something I have been hesitant about because of the fee. I view this as a further step forward in my business.”
If you would like to listen to the full coaching demo, please connect with MooreMasterCoaching.
As coaches, as leaders, as parents, as teachers, we have the capacity to positively impact the life of another. We have the opportunity to listen, to encourage and to acknowledge our fellow human beings so that they feel they belong, are connected and can perform well. In this way, I believe we generate value for all, for the good of all and create a world where everybody matters.
Thanks for reading!
PS If you would like to discover more in how to be a Thinking Partner for others, join me on Developing a Thinking Partnership Retreat, UK, 12th-13th September, 11th October 2019.