Just get out of the way!
This post is a reflection on my experience of using the Thinking Environment to get out of the way, and in doing so, support others to realise their potential.
In the last few years, I’ve learned a bit about the enneagram (a personality model, which you can find more about here). Turns out I have an enneagram type one style.
One of the things that it means, is that I see potential. In everyone, and everything, I see the opportunities for improvement. When I use it wisely, this can be a bit of a superpower. When I use it less wisely, it’s super irritating for those who I want to “improve”. Just ask my kids!
You see, my natural style is to try to force it. I’m a natural born “fixer”. I tell people what I am seeing that they don’t. I try to show them where I see the potential in them to be even better than they are.
Rather than meeting others where they are, this natural tendency of mine makes me try to drag them (sometimes kicking and screaming!) to where I want them to be.
Learning to Be, not to Fix
As I have gained this awareness through understanding myself better, I have been very fortunate to learn about the Thinking Environment. Learning to listen more attentively, deciding, consciously, not to interrupt others, is training a discipline in me. The discipline to listen. To be. Not to fix!
In fact, learning to teach this work has been a classic example of teaching what you most need to learn!
The impact of me getting out of the way, has been incredible. While I still offer my thoughts, insights and experience when it’s asked for, I now work really hard to do so free of condition or attachment.
This is what I think, and what my experience has been, but you are free to use that, or not, in whatever way you find useful.
Suddenly, there’s nothing for the other person to defend themselves against. My onslaught of well-meaning advice has turned into a much gentler offering. And in that space, thinking seems to become more courageous.
Slowly, people start to see their own potential, and once they’ve seen it for themselves, the drive to realise it is powerful.
This has become really clear to me recently, through a colleague, and friend.
I have worked with Siobhan for several years. I’ve always seen
great potential in her, she’s bright, enthusiastic, and embodies our company values as well as anyone.
But a few years ago, I tried to force it. I saw an opportunity, and ultimately, I think, tried to force a square peg into a round hole. There were a lot of knock-on effects from that, which I have learned a great deal from. Looking back though, the one I am most sad about, was that it really knocked her confidence.
So, over the last couple of years, we’ve worked together differently.
Shut up and listen!
First, I shut up and listened. I made it my aim to understand what was most important to her, and to give her the space to explore for herself where her potential might lie, and what actually got her excited! I’ve then been able to bring that together with what we knew the organisation needed and we’ve tailor made a role.
We have regular mentorship sessions (Thinking Environment style obviously). In our monthly time together, we both get a chance to hear each other think.
Revolutionary compared to traditional mentorship, and an absolute gift. By hearing her think through issues and problems, we both gain confidence in her growing abilities. By hearing me think through my issues and problems, she learns how my experience has shaped my approach to different situations.
We learn a huge amount from each other and have built a very strong connection too.
Last week, I watched her stand up in front of the whole company and share that she had rebranded her recently formed team to raise their profile and importance within the business.
Siobhan is now not only seeing her own potential, but really starting to realise it.
Proud doesn’t cover it!
Learning that the most valuable thing I can offer is my generative attention, and a promise of no interruption has been humbling. Learning that I can get out of everyone’s way by creating a high quality Thinking Environment has been transformational.
In so many ways, the Thinking Environment goes against the grain of what has become the norm in organisations. But if, like me, you want to realise the maximum potential out of every individual, and every situation, you could do a lot worse than giving it a go.
If you would like to learn to get out of the way and be less of a “fixer” too, I would love to hear from you. I have several public courses running this year and would love to chat about bespoke options to suit you. Please do get in touch for a chat.