Tag Archives: thinking partners

Mutual Inquiry: 8 Steps to Deepen & Shift Thinking

Posing questions to deepen thinking is a valuable leadership practice. It is one of the most powerful ways to help others shift their thinking and see new perspectives. It is an art and skill that can be mastered with practice.

If you pose reflective questions and encourage the other person to pause and think before responding, then you will both begin to shift your thinking and uncover new perspectives.

Questions to deepen thinking are not meant to be “asked” and “answered.” They are designed to be “posed” and “responded to.” The dynamic of posing a question that is 1) not leading, diagnostic, or challenging and 2) not required to be answered; leads to deeper thinking, automatically.

Questions to deepen thinking are not meant to be “asked” and “answered.” They are designed to be “posed" and “responded to." The dynamic of posing a question that is 1) not leading, diagnostic, or challenging and 2) not required to be answered; leads to deeper thinking, automatically.
Pose Rather than Ask

“Asking”a question implies that you are requesting information or an answer. “Posing” a question, on the other hand, introduces a thought for consideration.  Derived from the Latin for pause, posing a question sets the tone for introspection and allows the other person to reflect.

Respond Instead of Answer

Think of a response as “thinking out loud.”  A response doesn’t require an answer or a solution. It is simply uttering something in reply as a means to continue the thought process and the conversational exchange.

Questions to Deepen Thinking

  • Have you ever intentionally asked a question that you did not want an answer to?
  • Have you ever resisted the urge to answer a question to allow time for reflecting?
  • When instructed to hold an answer for a period of time, how many times does your response change in your head?


Block, P. (2008). Community: The structure of belonging. San Francisco: Berrett-KoehlerPublishers, Inc.
Koffman, F. (n.d.). Advocacy and inquiry: Combining the basic steps of the dance of communication. Retrieved from Conscious Business Blog: http://www.axialent.com/uploads/paper/archivo/Advocacy_and_Inquiry_by_Fred_Kofman.pdf


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Thinking Partners: A Concept and a Compact
The DOs and DON’Ts of Curious Listening: Tell Me More

Thinking Partners: A Concept and a Compact

Leaders should not underestimate the importance of Thinking Partners as they embark on new ways of learning and leading. As they continuously re-examine traditional leadership practices and test new mental models, leaders become vulnerable. Thinking Partners provides the structured reflection and safe means to evaluate leadership practices.

Thinking Partners is not simply a person or a role, but rather a concept that includes the roles of both partners and the structure of the conversation. It can be defined as a structured, thinking-sharing-listening-reflecting session in which:

  • one person thinks out loud
  • the other person listens and asks questions to deepen thinking

Thinking Partners is a Concept & a Compact

Thinking Partners is a Concept & a Compact in which two people engage in mutual inquiry while practicing empathy
Select a Thinking Partner

Look in your circle of influence for someone you are comfortable with. You and your thinking partner should:

  1. share mutual trust
  2. genuinely care for each other as individuals
  3. be able to support each other’s commitment statement
Agree on Structure

Thinking partner sessions are best done in person, but can be done in a video format like FaceTime or Skype. As a last resort you may speak by telephone. You and your thinking partner should agree to:

  1. practice empathy
  2. engage in mutual inquiry

What will you “think “about during the sessions? Possible topics are:

  • reaction to things you are trying
  • reflection on actions you have taken
  • new ideas you are considering
  • concerns you have
  • things you are avoiding

As you think out loud, your partner will listen with intent and then pose questions to deepen your thinking and offer you new perspectives.

Questions to Deepen your Thinking

  • Do you routinely include structured reflection in your work?
  • Do you ask others for help in “thinking things through”?
  • Do you look to others for new perspectives or to shift your thinking?

Related Posts

Mutual Inquiry: 8 Steps to Deepen & Shift Thinking
Transformational vs. Transactional: 2 Things a Leader Needs
Setting Meaningful Goals: 3 Components of a Commitment
The DOs and DON’Ts of Curious Listening: Tell Me More


Goleman, D. (2013, December). The Focused Leader:How effective executives direct their own – and their organization’s – attention. Harvard Business Review.
Knowles, M. (1984). The Adult learner: A neglected species. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company.