This man has fought a thousand battles…and still gets back up.
He won’t let you see he’s cried a thousand tears,
and yet he still comes up smiling.
He’s been beaten, deceived, abandonded and deserted,
and still walks tall.
He doesn’t know what it’s like to not have deep emotions.
Even when he feels nothing, he feels it completely.
He lives out loud and loves without fear.
This man is bold and determined.
This mand is humble.
This man is me.
One of the basic premises of Elegant Leadership with Voltage is to ‘be someone worth following’ if you’re going to lead people. Some of you collect art, autographs, seashells, all kinds of things that give you great joy. When it’s all said and done those kinds of things won’t mean a thing in the end. Are they nice to have and associate stories with and share memories? Sure. But, if you collect relationships, and if you’re someone worth following, then you will have great joy and fulfillment because you found a gift no one can give – the gift of making a difference in the life of someone else.
In developing the Elegant Leader with Voltage system, uncovering each step and then sharing them to make a difference in your life was powerful. I’m thankful for the opportunity to bring this message and for the opportunity of your example of leadership through humility and self-sacrifice. Becoming the best version of you is a great gift for yourself. Despite what people, circumstances, or your thoughts attempt to tell you, your collective life experiences are working together for your good and are training you to make a difference in the lives of others as well. It’s being present and holding space for one another.
In sports, in the military and in how we facilitate change for you and your organization, we all are to be practicing until we can’t get it wrong. We train with a sense of purpose so the pain of change is far less than the pain of staying the same. Things will go wrong and frankly more times than not; that’s one reason we learn more from our failures than our successes. Flip your mindset the next time shit hits the fan…yell, ‘plott twist’ and move on. Part of adapting and flexing to hold space for someone is holding on to what is good, noble, right and true.
Holding space is not something that’s exclusive to facilitators, coaches, or palliative care nurses. It is something that ALL of us can do for one another – our partners, our children, friends, neighbors, and better yet, even strangers. Here are 8 Tips to Help You Hold Space for Others:
Giving Permission. Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom. No one wants your volunteered opinions even if we absolutely know what the other person needs. While assuming good intent is one thing, demonstrating humility comes from asking permission. We don’t need to assume, steer or force our thoughts forward according to some arbitrary protocol. We simply needed to trust our intuition and wisdom to be present first.
Minimize Overwhelm. Give people only as much information as they can handle. You may have a wealth of experience and insight. But, who’s it for? Your ego and self-serving importance, or are you serving and leading with grace so as to not overwhelm someone with far more than they can process presently. Too much information can be a bad thing leaving someone feeling incompetent and unworthy.
Allow For Mistakes. When we take decision-making power out of people’s hands, we leave them feeling useless and incompetent – less than. The good news is shifting the ‘less than’ mindset to one of abundance. There may be some times when we need to step in and make hard decisions for other people (ie. when they’re dealing with a habit or behavior that’s detrimental or damaging to relationships). In most cases, people need the autonomy to make their own choices. Right or wrong. Good or bad. Favorable or unfavorable, learning happens at the end of our comfort zones. You need to feel empowered in making decisions. Our role is to offer support and not direct or control you.
Remove Your Ego. Keeping your own ego out of holding space is huge. We all get caught in the trap now and then – when we believe someone else’s success is dependent on our input or insights; or when we think their failure reflects poorly on us, or when we’re convinced whatever emotions they choose to unload on us are about us instead of them. It’s a destructive trap I’ve occasionally found myself sucked into when I coach. I may be more concerned about my own success rather than the success of the client – that serves no one! To truly support growth, we all need to keep our egos out of it and create the space where they have the opportunity to grow and learn.
Failure is Okay. Make them feel safe enough to fail. When people are learning, growing, or going through a difficult time or a transition, they are bound to make some mistakes along the way. When we, as Elegant Leaders – their space holders – withhold judgement and frustration, we offer them the opportunity to reach inside themselves to find the courage to take risks and the resilience to keep going even when they fail. When they can express themselves, the more they are heard and understood. When we let them know that failure is simply a part of the journey and not the end of the world, they’ll spend less time beating themselves up for it and more time learning from their mistakes.
Give With Humility. A wise space holder knows when to withhold guidance i.e., when it makes a person feel inadequate and when to offer it gently i.e., when a person asks for it or is too lost to know what to ask for. It’s a careful dance we must exhibit when we hold space for others. Recognizing the areas where they feel vulnerable or unsure and offer the right support without judgment takes practice and humility.
TIP: Create a container for complex emotions, fear, trauma, etc. When people feel that they are held in a deeper way than they are used to, they feel safe enough to allow complex emotions to surface that may ordinarily remain hidden. Someone who is practiced at holding space knows this can happen and will be prepared to hold it in a gentle, supportive, and nonjudgmental way.
Different is Okay. Allow people to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you. Holding space is about respecting each person’s differences – celebrate the uniqueness within them – recognize those differences may lead to them making choices we may not make.
Holding space is not mastered overnight, or can be adequately addressed in a list of tips like the ones just offered. It’s a complex practice that evolves as we practice it, and it is unique to each person and each situation.
Until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change, you likely won’t do anything.