Finding White Space

October 14, 2013

finding white spaceThe starting point in most of my coaching is teaching leaders how to lean back. They need to erase their whiteboards to make white space in their lives to tackle the really big things I have been hired to help them achieve. Without this white space, they don’t have enough mental or physical room to make important changes. They feel cramped–the way they might if they were trying to change their clothes in their car instead of a large walk-in closet.

Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.

– Dee Hock

Each client is different, but their schedules are always full to bursting when we first meet. They don’t have enough time–for coaching, their own work, overseeing others’ work, or for their families. These overachievers have a tendency–a chronic problem really–of saying yes. They wind up doing others’ work, micromanaging, or processing tons of paperwork. Their days are full of confirming information and making relatively minor decisions when they should be looking at the big picture and making big visionary decisions.

You can have great strategic thinkers in your organization, but if they don’t have much white space, they’ll get bogged down in operational functions. CEOs and senior leadership need to promote, provide, and protect white space. Otherwise bottlenecks to productivity and vision will form.

In production, once a bottleneck is removed from one source, it usually reappears elsewhere. As a leader, once you’ve created white space for yourself, look for bottlenecks with your direct reports and throughout the organization. Help others create white space, so that they can see their work and have the space to make changes–not have to try to change in their metaphorical cars.


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