Put the spoon down

Helping others develop and grow is an important part of being an effective leader. The type of support and direction individuals’ need will vary depending on the situation.

One thing that won’t change … let them do the thinking (and the talking) … don’t spoon-feed them.

Insights or ‘ahha’ moments tend to occur when we’re not thinking about the problem directly. Doing something repetitive (like driving), or that we are good at or enjoy (like cooking), frees up our cognitive resources to find answers to things that have been puzzling us. It also quietens our brain so we actually notice these new connections and combines existing data in new ways.

So insights are really very useful, they:

  • Are required to progress or solve complex problems.
  • Are more memorable than linear solutions (at the moment of insight, feel-good neurochemicals are released that help embed this new connection).
  • Generate a deep sense of engagement and ownership (we become very attached to our new way of thinking).

Therefore it’s important to facilitate insights, try not to always give answers.

At any opportunity, ask questions that bring about reflection, create self-awareness and generate a greater sense of responsibility. These are HOW questions, not WHY questions with a deliberate focus on solutions rather than problems.

To increase the chances of facilitating insight:

  • Provide quiet moments, don’t expect your team to go at 100km an hour all the time, staring off into space can be very productive.
  • Encourage your team to look inward, pause and reflect.
  • Limit threat and create positive emotion (think of their SCARF drivers/triggers).
  • Reduce conscious attempts to solve the problem, don’t sit in front of the whiteboard, marker poised until the answer presents itself – because it probably won’t.

Can you recall a time when someone has facilitated an insight for you? Asked you particular questions or just gave you the space needed to think outside the proverbial square? There’s nothing quite like that rush you get when you can finally grasp that elusive ‘AHHA!’. It can be a powerful motivator and spike productivity too.

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