Do you have time to think?

One of my ILM coaching delegates recently recalled a coaching session they had with a client. ‘I didn’t seem to do much, in fact I felt a bit of a fraud’, they said.

When I asked them to expand on this, they explained that the client had an issue in mind, spoke through the causes and identified potential solutions to the issue and then had decided on a course of action they could take. All of this without a clever intervention from the coach who just sat and listened and supported.

I asked them how the client had felt about the session; ‘Oh they were very happy with it, they said it had been really useful!’

My ILM group listened intently to this exchange and there were lots of knowing smiles and nods as if to say, ‘Yes, that’s happened to me too.’

I think it’s brilliant how quickly our coaches develop to this point, to simply be in the flow and not feeling the need to contaminate some great thinking with a clumsy or ‘strategised’ question (see Julie Starr: The Coaching Manual). They simply allow the thinking process to occur naturally.

My rudimentary research when working with groups of leaders and managers today, leads me to conclude the following. They (we) don’t have space and time to think!

It is the coach then, who can help create that space and time to think and the investment here is invaluable. People are too stressed, too busy, too pressurised, too committed and too underappreciated, to be able to make any sense of what’s happening to them, far less decide their next course of action.  It is, I think, an epidemic of national proportions.

In her excellent book ‘Time to Think’, Nancy Klein encourages us to think about thinking. The book explores the conditions that help us to do our very best thinking. She talks about the gift of giving others our fullest attention and says, ‘The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.’  This means the role of the coach fundamentally changes to become a facilitator of the client’s thinking.

It is a role I and my coaching delegates are becoming very comfortable with. Our delegate far from being a fraud, was simply demonstrating the focus and attention required of the skilled practitioner. They created time and space for their client to do their very best thinking. Which they in turn, appreciated.

So, my challenge to you is this. In the next conversation you have with a colleague or friend try this:

  1. Focus fully on the person and be immersed in what they are saying
  2. Stop yourself from formulating solutions or leading questions
  3. Be comfortable with silences and pauses as the space where the very best thinking happens

Afterwards, you can reflect on how the conversation went and notice any changes that happened as a result. I would love to hear of any success stories too.

Happy thinking time.

John Drysdale

MD of No Guru Ltd

Our next ILM Programme takes place in January..

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Posted by John Drysdale
6th August 2019


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We are delighted to announce we are now working with Heriott-Watt University to deliver the Welcome to Leadership programmes for their managers. The university has a large international presence with an ambitious strategy and we are looking forward to working with their Professional and Organisational Development team. Heriott-Watt is the latest University to join our growing list of valued customers within Higher Education and we are grateful for this amazing opportunity.

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The programme begins on Friday 17th September 2021 with our ‘Coaching Foundations’ session.  All learning is done remotely, making our programme accessible wherever you are.



John's Blog

Why be a coach or mentor?

I am a little biased but I love both coaching and mentoring. I used to enjoy being the ‘trainer’ which satisfied the performer in me but as I get older there is something that I find deeply satisfying in being a coach or mentor.

More than that, I find it a privilege to work with people.  People that trust you enough to share their greatest challenges, dearest hopes, deepest fears and core beliefs about life. I can think of few professions in business that afford you such intimacy. I feel lucky and grateful each and every session I get to spend with my clients. (more…)

Speaking Truth to Power

For those afraid of speaking …

(But) TED is a tough, pressured, hugely stressful gig, even for experienced public speakers, and I’m not that. Standing in the wings waiting to go on, I told the stage manager that my heart was racing uncontrollably and in an act of great kindness, she grasped both my hands and made me take breath after breath. And what you don’t see in the video – deftly edited out – is the awful, heart-stopping moment when I forgot a line, followed by another act of collective kindness, a spontaneous empathic cheer as I composed myself and found my cue. “That’s when the audience came onside,” an attendee told me. “You were human. That’s when you won them over.”  Guardian April 2019


This from Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist at the Guardian who has in this last year investigated the role of tech corporations and their platforms in influencing the workings of our democracy.  What makes her TED talk so compelling is because here she is facing those very same technology giants on their turf.  And speaking truth to power.


Coaching: Deep Impact

This week I had the chance to attend a seminar at the Leeds Coaching Network featuring renowned coach, writer and speaker Julie Starr.  You may be familiar with some of Julie’s work including; ‘The Coaching Manual’, ‘The Mentoring Manual’ and ‘Brilliant Coaching’ and the session was everything you expected it to be. (more…)