Are you a brave and confident leader? (part 2 of 2)

How Brave and Confident Leaders Hold Space for Choice

(part 2 of 2)


Background: Leaders who are brave and confident enough to hold space for choice in the change process will get a big pay off in terms of staff buy-in and ease. In this segment I the “how to’s” of holding space for choice. To catch up...see the previous post!


Educate and Inform

As you roll out your plan, share (and over share) the steps and how each staff

Are you ready to be brave?

person, department and role will be impacted. I tell leaders, just about when you feel sick and tired of hearing yourself explain the plan, is when you are just beginning to say enough. Never assume that just because you said it once, people heard it. Everyone hears things at different times and in different ways. And never assume that because you asked for questions and concerns once, people were ready to give them. Ask clarifying questions that help you hold the space for questions and concerns to come forward. “Please share what your perception is of what this change means for your team?” or if someone voices fear or stress, asking “Can you say more about that?” Avoid defending your position or trying to comfort them. Instead keep them talking until you really can hear their objection or block. Sometimes people just have to get to the root of the block themselves and verbal processing helps that happen.


If you allow yourself to become defensive or frustrated with an employee who is in the choice process, it will sabotage the trust. You will no longer be holding space. If you feel yourself becoming defensive, be vulnerable and honest letting the staff knowing, “This is new and challenging for me too”.


If you want to be a leader who can effectively and smoothly implement change while empowering valued staff to be in the solution not in the problem, learn to hold space for healthy dialogue. Learn to ask clarifying questions and actively listen to the answers. Learn to read the signals your body chemistry provides you when you are beginning to feel anxious, threatened, insecure or defensive. And learn how to turn that around. Developing an awareness of what it feels like in your body when you begin to get triggered and being able to neutralize that physical reaction, is the first step in mastering emotionally charged, high stakes conversations.


Getting to the Choice

Getting the commitment to engage in the change involves an invitation, “Do you choose to stretch and grow with us?” The individual is empowered to say “yes”, “no” or “I’m not sure”. If the answer is yes, the response is, “Great! What support do you need?” (which they may not be able to answer today and may change frequently so you will need to ask this question often).


If the answer is no, the next question is, “What is holding you back and what support would you need to say yes?’ This also opens the door to discuss the natural and logical consequences of choosing not to participate. If the answer is “I’m not sure”, you can ask what additional information they need and then give them a timeline for commitment. This is where “no choice” is still a choice comes into play. After additional time and information is given, the “I don’t know” becomes a “no”.


Natural and Logical Consequences

 I love natural and logical consequences because they are the most empowering part of holding space for choice. It takes the mandate out of participation. In other words, the organization is in fact moving forward. That is already determined. The choice you are giving the staff person is about how they will choose to participate or not. And helping them to gain clarity around both the natural and the logical consequences of each. Remember...consequences can be both positive and negative.


So a natural and logical consequence of saying “no” maybe you help him or her transition out of the company in a way that will be supportive to both (references, referrals, an appropriate timeline for both parties, etc.) Or perhaps moving to a position that will be less impacted if that is possible. Those are likely the logical consequences of choosing not to participate.


The logical consequences of choosing to participate may be that as the company grows, there will be promotions or salary increases. There are opportunities to gain new skills. Developing a list of these in advance will be helpful.


The natural consequences of choosing not to participate are ones that the staff person has to identify. Most likely the impact on his or her family, the stress of finding a new job, etc. Consequences can be both positive and negative. Maybe they’ve been considering moving to a new state for a while and a positive natural consequence of choosing not to participate is that it frees them up to make that move.


For the “I don’t know” answer, you may ask them to take some time and create a list of natural and logical consequences of both participating and of not participating and then come back to you with a decision in a set period of time.


The bravery in holding space for choice is that you may lose a highly skilled employee or long time friend who just doesn’t want to go through another change (which is unfortunate because change is inevitable – every time we breathe in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide, we’ve just gone through change). Being brave means accepting that someone may choose to move on. A leader who holds space for choice is clear on the spectrum of acceptable choice options from the companies perspective and helps the staff person gain their own clarity.


 Invest now or pay later

A leader who does the work to hold the space for choice is more likely to have an engaged team with less drama, takes positive risks and stays in solution mode not problem mode. The change process moves faster and cleaner. And that is certainly worth the investment.


Is your organization facing or stuck in a change process?

Contact us to set up a free strategy session to learn how to move through with more ease and less resistance.