Here’s A Wild Idea: Create Space For Thinking

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been experimenting with something a little risky…

I’ve been consciously creating more space for people to think. To borrow a phrase from the brilliant Michael Bungay Stanier, I’ve been ‘staying curious a little longer’.

It’s an interesting and risky paradox though, because my clients engage me for my advice and expertise – and here I am, actively finding ways to say less and have them talk more… even to the point of embracing moments of silence.

Well after two weeks of experimentation my early results are clear: this is immensely powerful.

You see we humans are all pretty smart. (This is why my approach to uplifting change leadership has always been to avoid methodologies – focusing instead of imparting ways of thinking. ) It turns out that this rings true in advice giving situations as well. Not only can you share expertise and create a positive outcome by prompting thinking – it’s often more impactful!

And for anyone leading change, that’s a useful thing to know.

How are you sharing your expertise with others? By telling them what you think, or prompting them to think differently?

Something To Ponder: Watching Them Eat

I am the eldest of 3 boys. Growing up, it was a loud, testosterone fuelled house, and dinners were no exception to that rule.

That was the case on this particular night too. It was mid-week, no different to any other. The usual pre-dinner rituals and raucous occurred as normal. Dinner was served, and I started eating.

It wasn’t until I was three or four bites in that I noticed that there was an unusual silence. So I looked up. Everyone else at the table, my parents and my brothers, were all sitting there with their heads in their hands, staring at me intently as I chewed.

…It was disconcerting to say the least…

When I asked what they were doing they just encouraged me to keep eating, but all of a sudden I no longer wanted to. I now felt an immense level of self-consciousness about every movement my mouth was making.

Turns out this was my brothers’ newest prank – just obsessively watching other people eat. After trialling it on a few of their friends, they brought it home and convinced my parents to join them in it for our family dinner.

At some point normality resumed, and everyone just moved on.

But there’s an interesting reflection there – if something as normal and natural as eating can become awfully uncomfortable when being intently watched – work is no different. I’m sure I’m not the only one who seems to make three times as many typos when someone else is watching.

What sources of unintended discomfort are you creating for you teams?