The HeadScratcher Post Archive
September  2011
10 Rules of a Thinking Coach
       September 2011 The Headscratcher Post Headscratchers LLC    Edition 74

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10 Rules of a Thinking Coach

In order for problems to be solved, someone has to Think. One of the components of Critical Thinking is the role of a Thinking Coach. By encouraging the "Thinking" in others, you can tap in and leverage the collective wisdom of a group, enabling others to solve a multitude of problems.

The role of a Thinking Coach. A Thinking Coach isn't an "advisor", or "coach" in the traditional sense as you will not be giving advice, or ideas, or suggestions. You are not going to critique or judge. There are many other times for that important role. As a Thinking Coach, your role is to draw out ideas and possible solutions from those you are helping.

Note: Being a Thinking Coach requires an extraordinary amount of focus and discipline, especially if you are familiar with the issue. We all like answers. It's what the 10,000 plus tests we took in our school years taught us ... "get to the answer". So of course, if we think we have an answer, there is a strong desire to help by communicating it ... after all isn't that helping? Be patient and keep your ideas to yourself.

Here are the 10 Rules of a Thinking Coach:

1. Explain your role as a Thinking Coach. Make the environment very safe. This isn't a test. You're not out to trip them up or embarrass them. This isn't about you or how much you know. Your ONLY role is to exercise the skill of Critical Thinking to help them come up with great ideas they probably have, but just haven't thought them through.

2, Don't be a Thinking Coach if you are in a rush. Forcing someone to think quickly or checking your watch every few minutes won't ensure a safe environment. If you don't have the time, postpone the session.

3. Only ask open ended questions. If your question can be answered with a "Yes" or "No", then it isn't an open ended question.

4. Pretend you know nothing about the specific subject matter. This helps you stay focused on the context of drawing out Thinking instead of diving into the content. This allows you to ask questions that seem ridiculously simple, yet are sometimes not so easy to answer.

5. Don't ask "leading" questions in the direction of your idea. For example, don't ask, what would happen if you did "This", unless the person you are helping first suggests "This".

6. Always wait for an answer to a question you ask. Do not speak again until the other person answers. They will almost always answer within 10 seconds. The awkward silence will ensure that. If the answer is "I don't know" then ask another open ended question like, "How do you think you can find out?" If they respond with "I need some time to think about it", then ask how much time, and give them that time.

7. Listen carefully to the response and if not clear, ask clarifying questions.

8. Allow the person you are helping to "Think Out Loud". Don't immediately respond with another question after they answer. Wait a moment, maybe there's more to come.

9. All responses have merit. Remember you are not judging. Let the person you are helping be their own judge.

10. If you comment, or give an idea, or a suggestion, your Thinking Coach session is over. You are now an advisor or coach in the traditional manner. Nothing wrong with this, but now YOU are doing the Thinking, not the person you are helping.

The Takeway: Thinking Coaches have a very specific role; to get someone else to Think. To do this requires concentration and focus. The benefit is great, including, helping others solve problems and generate new ideas. Follow the rules and give it a try.

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