There are times when, no matter how sure you are of a course of action, it is good to share your thoughts and gain reassurance, confirmation or challenge that what you plan is the best way forward.

Often in the workplace there is no safe place to have an open and frank discussion that explores options, fears, concerns or simply just shoot the breeze around ideas that may take things forward but don’t sit well in any conventional management or governance structure. So where do you have these conversations without the fear that your innermost thoughts might creep back into the workplace and possibly be misinterpreted?

Could having a thinking partner be the answer?

Well first we need to look at what we mean by a thinking partner. A thinking partner is someone who you trust, who will ask questions and help you find your own answers. Thinking partners may well provide ideas and options but they don’t provide solutions, instead they help you to work through and determine the best way forward in any given situation. A thinking partner should have appropriate experience and have faced many of the same questions and situation that you face, so their questioning is not just a learned response but comes from a place of understanding.

A key attribute for a thinking partner is empathy and the ability to challenge in a supportive manner. The thinking bit in this description is important, a thinking partner should help you crystallise ideas, root out the poorly constructed one and build greater clarity around those you feel are the best way forward. Thinking partners are not passive partners: they are meant to challenge, push, cajole and support you through the process of talking out the issues that affect you.

So what could a thinking partner help you make decisions around?

Well our experience shows that people issues are often high on the agenda and often involve complex working relationships that do not necessarily merit input from HR but need a different approach to tackle behaviours that have become ingrained and now need challenging. Other areas that can benefit are setting and keeping on a strategic path or personal doubts about ability. This latter example is more common than you might first expect; we all doubt our own ability at one time or another and more often than not it is because a relationship in the management change right up to Board level has gone wrong.

Taking the right actions for you or your organisation is never an easy one but a thinking partner might be the safe place to explore these challenging issues.

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