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The Art of Creating Space

By August 25, 2008 No Comments

The idea is that all parts of our life – and management can be seen
as pieces of a pie. If you cut a slice out of it you create a void. That void
will be filled with something.

Look at your personal or work
life – if you divide it into pieces you’ll always have 100%. People will fill their pie to capacity. 5% love, 15%
anger, 5% financial security, 5 % financial worry, 7% crisis, 10%
addiction, 15% time with kids and so on. These different pieces of the pie can change both in type and size but together they will still account for 100%. For
example: you get a raise. Do you bank the extra cash or buy a new
car so you maintain your balance of cash in the bank? You change
your schedule to work 4 days a week 10 hour days. Do you spend more
time with the kids or fill that time with other work to maintain the
balance you have become comfortable with? This is the reason people
stop smoking and start drinking or win the lottery and end up broke five
years later.
Now lets look at leadership and the SPACE model. If you are a strong leader in an
intact group they see you as X% of the leadership. If you then try
to create space for others to fill the void it creates a temporary
imbalance in the pie. People can feel the void and the vaccuum is
uncomfortable. If you are not patient you will fill the void with
your leadership and the balance is back. This may feel good to everyone
because it provides returns them to what is comfortable. The challenge is to
wait for someone to fill the space. You might need to wait longer
than you expect and that is extremely difficult for most.
Tips to making this happen. Remember, If you do not bring out the
leadership in them and you become an irreplaceable leader you can
never be promoted. I am working on this in my company. Let people
know what you are doing. Look for times that you can delegate
decisions with constraints and give them a chance to figure things
out without your input, but with your guidance or guidelines.
Distance yourself from some situations when you might need to be the
default leader. Let the team know what needs to be done but that you
have a conflict and need to be working on “X” so they will have to
figure it out with these guidelines. Trust that they can increase
their leadership amount but you will have to be willing to wait
through the discomfort and give up an equal amount of leadership.
Take a coach of a football team. If they call in the play every time
to the quarterback they will not have time to look at the big picture
or fill another role during offensive times. If the coach is ejected
from the game all is not lost. The QB will call the plays on the
field and it will be rough and uncomfortable at first and they might
loose the game. But the QB will learn more in that time than simply
executing whatever play is sent on the field from the sideline for 10
My style is to try and fill as little space as I can during my
programs. At first I filled all the space. I did all the talking
for the first 30 minutes. I then try to ask more questions and
suffer through silence and wait for someone on the team to fill the
space. The space will quickly fill and I can then think about the big
picture and my next move with the group. By the end I do almost no
talking in the last 30 minutes. It is a constant struggle during
programs when the group is slow to fill the space or when they do
they fill it with sarcasm or idle comments. In those situations I
can not give up as much of the leadership space. But I do this out
of choice not pattern. I used the environment as well. I start
with them all facing me and at the end they are facing each other and I
am just part of the team. The leadership space was then shared with
all members and bounced around freely without the structure being as
obvious as in the beginning when “I was the leader of the session.”
I am trying not to catch eyes with the person sharing so the focus even less on me as on the group. During our bike building teambuilding program I
step out of the room so if people have questions they can not ask
me. If I had announced that I was in the front of the room for any
questions I might have had a line of people waiting to talk to me.
By leaving the room I would guess that people looked for me for a few
seconds, felt the void of my leadership and filled it with their own
creativity or other resources in the room.
I hope this helps. It has been fun thinking about this.