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The powerful results of having time to think

People hire a business coach or personal development coach for many reasons:

  • To help them get unstuck with an issue
  • To work out what they need to change to grow their business more quickly
  • To gain more confidence in one area or another
  • To become more effective at something: delegation, presenting, making decisions, time management
  • To develop meaningful and effective goals and plans and achieve results from them that they don’t feel confident to do alone
  • To help them move their career forward or make a career change of some kind

For some business owners, the decision to hire a business coach may not start with any particular goal other than making sure they’ve got someone on their side that they trust will push them, challenge them and hold them accountable (without managing them or taking away their autonomy by telling them what to do) whilst supporting them, listening and giving them space and time to think as they make those lonely decisions .

And it is having this clear time to think and focus, knowing that someone is listening without judgement that many coachees say is one of the great benefits of coaching.

Creating time often proves difficult though, and we rush through our thinking and decision making instead. Last week I nearly didn’t create the time to attend an event I’d signed up to: I considered cancelling because I was busy. I went, and the Learn>Connect>Do event in Leicester ended up serving as an incredibly powerful reminder of the impact that having not just the time, but also the space and a supportive, non-judgemental and calm environment, has on our ability to think clearly and deeply.

When I arrived, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting – as I picked up my coffee I reflected I wasn’t even really clear whether my main motivation for signing up was to learn (the subject was “developing wellbeing at work”) or to network. In the event, I did both. I connected with some great, knowledgeable, people. But the real revelation was what I experienced in taking part in a Nancy Kline-style “Thinking Environment” for the first time.

Here’s how it worked: Fifteen of us, facilitated by the wonderful Helen Amory, considered a particular question, using the key elements of Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment. At a basic level this meant:

  • Everyone around the table having an opportunity to speak, in turn, with equal importance, without being interrupted, while everyone else gave good quality listening attention;
  • Each of us being encouraged to offer new thinking each time we spoke, and to offer thoughts and views that were honest, particularly if they were different to the views already put forward;
  • And each of us being encouraged to distill our thoughts into a few key words or a phrase once we’d finished speaking.
  • We went around the table twice, each presenting our thoughts one by one, exchanging views in a similar manner in smaller groups in between each of the round-tables with the wider group .

What happened was truly remarkable. In the space of forty-five minutes, every person around the table found their thinking and views on the subject transformed from the ones they had arrived with. Ideas and views that, in many cases, we didn’t even know we held within us were presented, built on, contradicted, explored. The process was calm, connected and respectful, the resulting change in beliefs explosive and, for some, almost disturbingly clear. As one of my co-delegates put it: “I think it changed all of us a little bit”.

We weren’t a “team” (in fact almost nobody there had met anyone else that was there before) and, as such, we didn’t have to reach a final firm conclusion together, but it was clear that had we needed to we would have done so respectfully and with the buy-in of everyone around the table. And the result would probably have been very different from the one any of us would have expected at the start of the session.

Being given time, attention and space to think clearly resulted in far more powerful, searching thought and conclusion than the hurried, challenged thinking that most of us are probably more used to. It was a masterclass that demonstrated how how easy it is to stretch your thinking further if only you have the quality time and attention to do so.

It left me motivated to re-double my commitment to ensuring I give my coaching clients that quality of space and thinking environment every single time we work together. It also reminded me that it really is time I stopped being surprised about the fact I find, time and again, that coaching by phone or in a “walk and talk” session often turns out to be remarkable for the clarity with which my clients move their thinking and decision making forward. After all, there’s often extreme calm, safety and brilliantly quiet attention being given in both those circumstances.

Time too, I think, to dust off my outdoor sofas and prepare for some open-air countryside coaching this summer with my clients – I’m prepared to bet the fresh air, beautiful views and peaceful setting of my garden deck will promote even greater attention from me and open up thinking, ideas and progress in my coachees that will see them and their businesses bloom bigger and brighter than ever.

If you need some time to think and want to create some explosive growth in yourself or your business, let’s talk.

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