I spend a lot of my time acting as a coach with various people. Sometimes it’s a formal coaching relationship and sometimes it’s just a result of having a conversation about a goal or outcome. In both cases I find one of the important roles I play is that of a thinking partner.
A thinking partner is someone who helps you think through what’s going on in your life. I’ve found that when I play the role of a thinking partner lots of interesting things happen.
A thinking partner’s job is to ask good questions.
This is a key for your thinking partner. Their real job is to ask you great questions that allow you to check your premises. You want to know whether you’re taking the “best” path towards whatever outcome you’re working toward.
In my case when I’m doing my job well I don’t ever provide answers. When it comes to what you want to do most of the time you know what that is. I’ve found that it’s rare that I provide an idea you haven’t already considered.
Thinking partners need to help you decide if your outcome is the real one you want.
It’s rare that when I’m working with someone as a thinking partner that we don’t end up changing our original idea. We start with an idea, I’ll ask some questions about why this is important, and additional information as a result of those questions will often cause my conversation partner to change their mind about what’s important.
It’s OK to change your outcome. If you discover new information that helps you think about what you want to accomplish in a different way then making a change is a rational thing to do. You don’t want to get yourself in a position where that once you start down a particular path you aren’t willing to let new information change your focus and direction.
Thinking partners help you move forward toward an outcome.
Thinking partners can help you stay accountable. A good thinking partner will continue to ask questions. It’s probable that along the way you might decide the idea you started working on isn’t the one you want to continue working on. There might be something that’s come up that’s more important. There might be a better and more elegant way to reach your goal.
If this causes you to change the direction you’re moving, that’s OK. You don’t need to stay stuck in what you’re doing. This is where sunk costs can cost you time, money, and effort. Too many times we decide that once we start in a particular direction we need to keep on keeping on. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap.
Thinking partners are allowed to give you their opinion.
If you’re playing the role of a thinking partner, it’s OK to give your opinion. You should only do so after you’ve asked at least five questions. You want to make sure your opinion helps the person you’re helping move towards their goal and not your goal.
A thinking partner is there to help another person become clear and develop discipline that’s needed to keep moving forward. Too many times thinking partners will forget this and move their partner towards a goal they like, not the one the person they’re helping wants to accomplish.
At the end of the day it’s your call.
If you’re the person who’s being helped by a thinking partner stay in control. It’s your call whether you want to do something or not. A thinking partner is there to help you think about an issue. They aren’t there to tell you what to do. That’s your area. You’re the expert on what you want to do. If you’ve answered really good questions you have developed additional information. That’s what it’s all about, helping you make wise choices.
We have a special report called the When in Transition workbook. This workbook will help you think through actions you should take when a transitional event happens in your life. To get your copy of this workbook, click on the button below.