This is my think week. It’s now, happily, an annual event.
It started last year when, during covid, I decided to write my book. To kick start that whole process, my incredibly supportive husband suggested I check myself into a little Airbnb in the Byron Hinterland for a week. So I did.
In that week – I played records, lit fires, drank coffee, and wrote my little heart out. It’s amazing what you can achieve when there are literally no distractions. No kids, no TV, no dinners to cook or phone calls to make or errands to run. Nothing but time, space and opportunity.
Over 4 days, I managed to get down 9,000 words. Almost as much as my Master’s thesis which took an agonising 12 months to write.
The momentum I gained that week continued, even through the usual chaos of life and client work. Over the following 8 weeks, I completed the next 55,000 words and within 3 months had a published book.
That whole experience proved to me the value of a think week. So I’ve now decided to make it an annual event. This week I’m focussing on building up new content for keynotes, reading the 15 books I’ve ordered but not got around to yet, watching TEDxtalks that inspire me and actually getting some rest.
While this experience is invaluable – not everyone has the means or opportunity to make a think week (or even think day) happen.
So it got me thinking – how can we create “think moments”? How can we create the space for thinking regularly throughout our days, weeks, months?
I actually think – creating the space is more accessible than we realise. Through coaching.
When we coach – we ask vs tell. We’re actively taking people through a thinking process, asking questions to reveal their goals, their challenges, their options, and their actions.
When we coach – we ask questions, and then we let the silence sit. It’s in the silence between asking and question and hearing an answer that innovation happens.
When I train leaders to coach – I ask them to use the “What else?” question at least three times in a coaching conversation. Why? So that they push past the immediately obvious answers to the unthought known. The unthought known is the idea sitting latent within them, just waiting for its opportunity to come out.
The third time you ask someone ‘what else?’…they usually don’t have an answer. They say…. “I don’t know….what do you think?”. But if we can have the patience and discipline to let silence sit in that moment…to create space….their creative intelligence is activated and they can often come up with something that surprises both of you.
That moment is uncomfortable. It’s awkward. Innovation is uncomfortable. It sounds fun, but it’s not. We’re working to find new solutions to existing problems and we don’t like not having answers. We don’t like looking incompetent or not knowing what to do.
Think week is uncomfortable. It sounds beautiful – and it is lovely to have time away in a beautiful setting. But the beautiful setting is a strategy is to help me stay calm and focussed in the face of doing something very challenging. I’m here with a purpose to create something new – to stretch beyond my comfort zone, to work, to not procrastinate, to make my time mean something valuable.
Similarly, think moments in a coaching conversation are equally uncomfortable. Therein lies the real skill of coaching…asking questions and staying silent.
Gifting moments of space to yourself and others is an act of generosity, patience and discipline.
So, who can you give the gift of space to today?