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Top 3 takeouts from the ‘Thinking Environment’ with Jane Adshead-Grant, by Edd Layton

This is the second Marketing Academy event I’ve had the privilege of attending, and like the first on creating change leadership it was incredibly rewarding. The session was presented by Jane Adshead-Grant, whose career has taken her from secretary to Director of HR within the investment banking industry, and along the way picking up a number of qualifications in psychology and coaching. She now runs her own consultancy, with the mission to “create an environment for you to get clear on what you want, discover what is getting in the way, create breakthrough thinking and new strategies for you to accomplish your goals”.

The session covered ideas and techniques to create a thinking environment within teams and businesses. What I immediately liked was the clear model that Jane had developed – linking simple techniques to create the Thinking Environment methodology. We covered the first 6 sections of 10 – Attention, Equality, Ease, Appreciation, Encouragement and Diversity (though Diversity is actually number 8, but I was so engrossed I didn’t realise that until writing this!). They’re all obvious things to consider when you think about how to create an open and collaborative thinking environment, but do we all actually follow these principles?

Jane used breakout sessions to demonstrate the ideas; encouraging us to really listen to what the person we were partnered with was saying, not to interrupt, and encourage them to express themselves. As someone who likes to engage in conversation, but also the sound of my own voice, that was pretty enlightening and very challenging! I had no idea saying “yes; yep; ok; oh right; yeah” as someone talks doesn’t automatically mean you’re engaging, it may just mean you want them to hurry up! A conversation needs to be a balanced opportunity to express opinions and ideas, not just time before you get to talk again.

What I also found very useful was the chance to meet and talk with marketers from other businesses and sectors. On my table alone I had a marketing manager from an expanding budget hotel chain, a project manager from a marketing consultancy, and the CEO of The Living Leader (a business that provides programs and consultancy for business leaders). Having been a Lloyd’s lifer, getting the chance to talk openly with people from other businesses and sectors is incredibly useful.

My top 3 learnings:

–          Ask the right question – I purposefully don’t mean “Ask the right questions”; asking the right opening question is incredibly important to start the conversation. What are they thinking about? What are their thoughts? Don’t lead them, just start the conversation off and let them talk to you.

–          Let them talk – Don’t given in the desire to say “Yes; ahum; oh yeah ok; yeah” while listening to someone. You may think you’re showing engagement, but do you not just want them to speed up and get to the end?

–          Bring everyone into the conversation – giving everyone the chance to talk, uninterrupted, not only stops people’s thoughts being disrupted as they express their ideas, but helps to bring everyone into the conversation and will promote a much more collaborative environment.

Overall it was a fantastic session, and hopefully if this blog isn’t too badly written I might get the chance to go to another one.

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