Wednesday January 28, 2009
Helen Flint - Learning and Development Director
I recently went to a lecture given by Nancy Kline, author of 'Time to Think'. I'd heard a lot of fellow coaches rave about her book but hadn't quite got around to reading it myself, so being auditory and low-read, I thought I'd go along and hear what she had to say.
I'm so glad that I made the effort as it was well worth every minute and at just £10, worth much more than every penny too. Nancy is one of the most impressive speakers I've seen in a long time, and for many of the characteristics that are seldom admired now. Many speakers make the mistake of letting their egos get the better of them, rejoicing in the sound of their own voice. Sometimes forgetting to focus on the quality of what they have to say and the importance of engaging their audience throughout. Nancy did all of this and more, and in manner that was humble, yet still impressive.
One my way home I thought of the words I'd use to describe her and this is what I came up with: interesting, engaging, authentic, spiritual, peaceful, serene, wise, fun and possessing an inner beauty. She's also a great story-teller with a sense of humour but more importantly, she is a great listener. Before she started her seminar she went around the room quietly talking to people that had come to see her, including myself. Something any speaker could accomplish but few rarely do.
With our constant fascination with celebrity, sadly listening to others and thinking about the recipient have become less important as people seem more impressed by a person's latest affair, dramatic weight loss or haircut. On a positive note, conversely the new president of the United States, Barack Obama, seems to possess many of Nancy's qualities and it's really exciting to see a nation being inspired by that.
Whilst out with a group of friends the other night, we reflected on why we thought this celebrity culture had developed. We concluded that maybe until recently as a nation, we had relatively little to worry about which has allowed us to focus on the frivolous things in life. Magazines like OK, Hello and Heat popped up and fuelled the nation's celebrity fascination. Reality TV, blogging and You Tube appeared with those clips celebrities would rather keep quiet. Perhaps for our grandparents who lived through war and depression, for them just surviving was their key focus. Maybe as we endure the current global financial crisis, our fascination with celebrity may diminish as we are forced to focus on more important issues likes simply keeping our jobs, paying our bills feeding our children?
In the busy world in which we live, we seldom have real true quality time to think; which means that we rarely make quality decisions based on quality thinking. Nancy Kline has identified ten behaviours that form a system called the 'thinking environment'; a model of human interaction that dramatically improves the way people think, and thus the way they work and live. Listening - the quality of people's attention for each other - is the core of this method.
Being a coach myself, I know the positive impact that the simple act of truly listening to someone has on them. Coaching works on the premise that the person being coached has all the answers within themselves and through effective questioning the coach helps draw them out. Nancy's principle is fairly similar and she believes that it's vital we help people to think for themselves and that we prize each others minds above all else.
Any manager or leader should read this book but everyone can benefit from reading it. Nancy has successfully used this model in many blue chip companies developing high powered teams and also with individuals seeking personal growth. Her book is peppered with fascinating true life experiences which makes easy reading.