Helping People Think


by Mark Miller

Each Friday, I respond to a question from a leader somewhere in the world. Today’s question continues the theme of the week around our role as leaders in helping people grow and develop. Today’s Challenge: How do you help people learn to think?

As I think about this question, I’m reminded of the classic axiom: if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day – if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. I have a strong bias on this issue – I believe people are born with the ability to think. Therefore, I really don’t like to think for people; nor do I like them to think for me.

Tragically, thinking skills seem to be latent in some people. Why would this be the case? One of three reasons comes to mind…

– Thinking may not be expected of the individual;
– Thinking may actually be discouraged by those in authority;
– Thinking skills may be underdeveloped.

What can a leader do?

First, create the expectation for people to think! Encourage them to do so at every opportunity. Then, engage in purposeful activities to help people develop their ability to think. Following are a few ideas to get you started (I covered a couple of these ideas earlier this week.)

Give people challenging assignments (without an obvious solution.) I’ve been given some very challenging assignments in my career – and I’m thankful for every one of them! Managing a difficult person, leading a struggling team, solving a complex problem – all of these helped develop my ability to think.

Ask more questions (specifically ones people don’t know the answers to.) Hard questions stimulate thinking. As leaders, I believe the best leaders ask more questions than they answer. Thinking itself is a developmental activity – the more people think, the more comfortable they can become with the entire process.

Read the rest here:

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