Download Free

resources and updates




Are you doing people’s thinking for them? by Chantal Burns

We’re told frequently by our clients that they want their people to be self-directed or be braver, better problem solvers etc. Yet what they do (innocently) is encourage the very opposite behaviour.

As leaders or managers, one of the key questions we need to ask ourselves is:

‘Are we thinking for people or thinking with people? 

To thrive and flourish at work, we need to encourage our people, clients, colleagues and those we serve, to think for themselves in order to experience the clarity of their own wisdom and the wisdom of their clarity. But what I see are leaders who hijack conversations and rob people of their natural capacity to think for themselves. Not intentionally of course!

What are the implications of this? Why does it matter?

When leaders and managers hijack people’s thinking..

  • it stifles people’s performance and capacity to learn and develop which can lead to
    • apathy or lack of motivation
    • needy behaviour
  • it gives you unnecessary mental load because you’re doing people’s thinking for them
  • we end up doing work we should not be doing
  • connection and relationship suffers because we don’t feel listened to or acknowledged


So why does this happen? Why do we so often think for people when we need to think with them?

Here are some thought traps that explain:

Fixer bias: we have an unconscious desire to be the one who solves the problem.. to come to people’s rescue… or we just like to be right or have the answers.

Habit: often it’s simply what people are used to doing.. perhaps they used to be the one who had to generate solutions and now they are responsible for a team who do that.

Trust: sometimes it’s a lack of belief in people to let them sort it out for themselves…to find their own answers.

Competency bias: (linked to the above) we believe we know better/can do better. I mean how could anyone possibly do this as well as me?!

Toxic Time trap: we get caught up in psychological urgency.. ‘unless i do it, it won’t get done on time’ .. ‘it’s faster to just do it myself rather than help someone else to think it through for themselves’.

So it’s worth asking yourself..

Are you limiting people’s ingenuity? Are you encouraging helplessness? Are you robbing your team,  clients or colleagues of their natural capacity to think for themselves?

‘The ancestor of every action is a thought’ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every time you jump in to fix, advise or offer solutions and every time you hijack the conversation with your own agenda, you are thinking for people not with them….which means you could be denying people their moment of realisation, discovery and insight…and their potential to be heard or to learn and grow.

It’s your responsibility as a conscious leader to inspire great thinking. It’s your gift and privilege to empower people and uncover their clarity and creativity.

So what does this require? It requires presence of mind and an intention to serve. It requires you to listen deeply without judgement and ego, to truly understand where people are coming from and to ask questions that inspire people to challenge their own perceptions, uncover their wisdom and find answers.

Think with people, not for them and you’ll discover just how brilliant people really are.


Connect with us on

The Value of Insight

Leave a Reply

Download Free

resources and updates