Insights From The Leadership Whisperer

Creating Space

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our ability to choose our response, and in that response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Any of you that have worked with me in the past will recognise this quote – it’s one of my favourites. This one was written by the wonderful Viktor Frankl who survived the terror of the concentration camps, when all his family did not.

If you use this quote as a lens to observe any leader’s behaviours, you learn a lot about them. Notice how people react when the stimulus they experience is a trigger for them. Maybe somebody doesn’t tell them what they want to hear, somebody disrespects them, they don’t meet their numbers, they don’t get that promotion, someone cuts them off on the road; something/anything happens that they really don’t want to happen. Of course, we know that this stuff can happen to all of us, many times throughout our days, our weeks, our lifetimes. That’s part of life.

We have a choice in how we choose to respond to these triggers. That sounds like common sense, but what is also part of life, is that common sense isn’t always common practice.

Sometimes there is no space between what happens and how people respond to it and in that situation, some of the behaviours that you’ll typically observe are:

  • A knee-jerk reaction
  • A screaming match
  • Storming off
  • Undermining
  • Ignoring, not following up
  • Being ‘cool’ with one another
  • Exclusion
  • Banging the desk
  • Blaming, Shaming and Judging (in public for added effect!)
  • Passive Aggressiveness
  • Collecting psychological stamps – niggles that never get acknowledged and that build up in our emotional pressure-cooker

I don’t need to describe the detrimental effects that these behaviours can have on our relationships, our credibility, our teams and our cultures.

Some of the notable behavioural changes reported throughout the years, following Azurite’s executive coaching and leadership development programmes, is a widening of that precious space between stimulus and response.

The wider that space, the more aware and conscious the leader is. This is the realm of the “Meta Navigator”. A Meta Navigator has learned to choose a more appropriate response (which doesn’t mean suppressing the emotion); they are less reactive, have less drama in their midst, they don’t blame something outside of themselves (a stimulus) for their reactions. Instead, they listen to understand, they W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?), they empathise, explore, hold courageous conversations, apologise when appropriate and choose to embrace uncertainty and vulnerability. What you will then observe is clean and clear communication, enhanced trust, collaboration, cooperation and psychological safety, engaged teams and thriving cultures (to name but a few).

If this is the type of culture and response that appeals to you – why not get in touch to have an exploratory conversation?

Mary T, The Leadership Whisperer. 2021