Monday 27 July 2009

The Forgotten Art of Thinking

Since becoming a full-time Coach, it's become apparent to me that in Business the most critical ability we have is our thinking ability. Thinking is vital if we want to become skilled at solving problems. Yet so few people either realise that or have much skill in HOW to Think. Yet when you learn how to think, many things become easier. As F.Scott Fitzgerald once said: "The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposite ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function".
These are spurs that must be earned. But like all muscles, our thinking muscles can also be developed and improved over time!
Here are some 'critical essentials' as I rate them and simple things you can do right away to get the ball rolling.

1. Separate yourself from the issue at hand. Create THINKING SPACE. Remember to MANAGE your EMOTIONS. (Are they helping or hindering?)
2. FRAME the problem. Ask yourself "What's the crux of this matter?"-What needs to be decided here? Am you solving the right problem? Separate issues from each other.
3. Start to DEFINE the problem/issue using all the available information. I challenge myself to 'refine to 1 line'.......Then I really understand the ESSENCE of things!!
4. Am I looking at the simple and obvious things FIRST?- Thomas Jefferson advised us to "grab the problem by the smooth handle"
5. Do I have enough INFORMATION or experience available to make an informed choice?
6. Are there different OPTIONS available? Am I being objective and balanced here?
7. Have I come across this before in another guise- What LESSONS can I draw from previous experience?

As a Coach you must excel at thinking. You of course are not doing the thinking on behalf of your Client, but, you have to be able to assimilate, distil, synthesise and associate quickly to be useful to busy Executives whose lives move and change very quickly. As a Coach, when I'm most effective is when I think clearly and frame accurately. This allows you trust your own judgement and feel confident you have your 'arms round the topic' under discussion.
People come to a Coach with complex problems they cannot resolve on their own. It may be in the form of a convoluted 'people issue', an Organisation Chart, a Strategy Document, a handed down Executive decision that they struggle to interpret clearly. You have to be comfortable in this space as a Coach and feel capable of what I call 'beating the problem while understand the person in it'. That's complex, but a great achievement when you finally achieve clarity. A coach is essentially as Plato said " a midwife to understanding". An enabler of clarity and someone who runs alongside you as an equal partner, co-creating the desired outcome. That's essentially how Coaching is different to other disciplines. I studied Six Sigma and Strategic Marketing academically and have those to thank for helping me HOW TO THINK. What helps you to think and gives you comfort you understand your issues properly???

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