One way to improve the thinking that comes out of every meeting

One of the great privileges of my role is that I am invited to listen to 10 – 12 clients every week. During the hour or so I spend with them, my whole job is to listen.

In the process of doing that, I’ve discovered something amazing. When I give someone my full attention, their ability to think improves.

I’m not saying that they get smarter – I’m saying that when I don’t interrupt them, either when they are talking or when they are silently thinking, when I don’t tell them what I think or judge their thoughts, it creates a space where they are free to open their mind and think their best thoughts.

Several times in the last week, I’ve asked a client a question and then stopped talking while they thought aloud and silently for several minutes. When they finally landed somewhere, the result was a surprise to both of us!

Improving the thinking environment in every meeting

The quality of everything we do depends on the thinking we do first. Richer, more complete, and creative thinking improves every aspect of a creative firm.

And you can improve the thinking process of every person you meet with.

Try this in your next meeting:

  1. Start with a focus – maybe one of your team members comes in with a question, and you respond with, “I don’t know, what do you think about that?
  2. While they are talking, don’t think about what you think. Listen to them with your whole self. Put 100% of your attention into listening to them.
  3. Let them talk without interruption. When they pause, wait or ask them, “Do you have more thoughts?”
  4. You can sometimes elicit even more by asking, “Are any judgments or assumptions stopping your thinking at this point? What would have to be true for you to think about this further?
  5. Repeat steps 2 and 3.
  6. Be surprised and delighted at the great ideas you are hearing.

It’s surprisingly easy to create better thinking in others, and the bonus is the more you do it, the better everyone’s thinking gets!

P.S. You might notice that at no point in this process did you give any of your ideas. Isn’t that great? But if it turns out that their thinking gets stuck, or heads in a direction where your experience has taught you isn’t useful, you can always add your thoughts at that point and start them back off thinking from there.

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