Thursday 2 April 2020

That "What more" question...

Yesterday, I ran a series of virtual workshops, for people who are going to be mentors in the Inclusion Matters - Northern Power research project. One of the things we practiced was using Nancy Kline's Thinking Environment principles as part of the mentoring skill set.

As participants included successful academics and senior business leaders, we had some interesting reflections on all aspects of the training.

One was on the power of the question: what more do you think, or feel, or want to say? which is core to Nancy's approach. It is used when someone has said all they can think of in answer to an initial open question and is beautifully designed. It is completely open and non-leading, allowing the person being listened to follow his or her thinking wherever it wants to go.

It is clearly a much better question than the one people find it easier to ask (I picked up on this with a few yesterday): is there anything else...? For that risks communicating that enough is enough, and also makes it easy for the person to say no; whereas the What more...? question suggests that more is expected and will be welcomed - and also prompts (I nearly said, forces) the thinker to consider... well to consider what more?...

All that I had known, but participants' reflections yesterday took my understanding further. The initial answer was often what they knew they thought about the topic - and therefore did not give them any real insight, interesting though it may have been to the listener.  But answering the What more...? question prompted them to think out loud in live time, and their answers were often clarifying, sometimes revelatory, and occasionally surprising to themselves. People mentioned how it led to a higher order of thinking, how it took them deeper very quickly, and how, despite both its apparent artificiality (especially when repeated several times) and its simplicity, it was a hugely powerful and catalytic question.

It was the single issue in the training that was most frequently commented on by participants as being particularly helpful and something they will resolve to take forward into their mentoring, and more broadly into their practice as leaders, academics and teachers.

And on a personal note, having, as I do, my own share of Imposter Syndrome, I found it was reassuring to hear from some very skilled and experienced senior academics and business leaders that they had learned valuable things about mentoring, when they have already been taught how to do it, and how to listen and so forth, many times over their careers. So a veritable win:win - I learned something of real value, and so did they!

No comments:

Post a Comment