Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 153 – Critical Distance & The Power Of Creating Space

Dear leaders, do you ever give yourself the chance to take a step or two back and gain critical distance away from a situation or an ongoing problem at work?

The answer likely is no and not as much as I’d like. 

This week let’s change that. 

In my coaching, the theme that comes up most often other than being too busy is actually how do I not get bogged down by the detail or the potential pressure of a situation?

The question often is qualified to – 

Will I ever get enough space or a chance to get away from a situation and tackle the problem with a different point of view to help move the business forward?  

Leaders Lead: Some of the greatest business leads I have ever worked for or with have this ability to create a way to step back (even in the moment) and understand the landscape and give themselves critical distance

I heard critical distance come up in a recent podcast with BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti. He commented on a question about being able to understand a situation differently and he said he didn’t have the critical distance to have a different perspective. 

A little trip down memory lane: I remember being pulled from an interview (I was conducting) with a potential senior management candidate because there was a PR fire happening and they needed my input. 

I asked for a 60-second breakdown as I walked to the “war room” and then asked the team to add their expert opinion and boil down our options into my previously shared one problem two solutions

When listening to the team and their solutions, I knew many were too close to the problem and couldn’t step up, step back or step out of the problem to see the most obvious solution. 

As I listened I wrote the suggestions on the whiteboard everyone was saying different words but all had the same sentiment about the potential problem, me having the time and critical distance to digest and replay what I heard the solution was simple, let it play out for another hour and we regroup with changes.

Guess what; Over that next hour nothing had damaged us, almost everything kept the same apart from our customers supporting us across social media and the sh*tstorm subsided with the brand coming out better than before. 

Fortunately, the candidate was brilliant for the ten or so minutes I had left and even made themselves another drink and set up their presentation for the follow on.  

With the speed of change and the demand to constantly tweak and grow, I am sure critical distance will be a competitive advantage for many leaders so…
This week’s focus action is to train yourself on being ok and know it is ok to speak to trusted colleagues or to step back, step out or step above something, give yourself the critical distance to digest something and come back with what you believe to be the right solution moving forward.
I actually believe these types of leadership behaviours create strong bonds and enable the teams to mimic this behaviour and positively ripple through company culture.  

Have a great week and remember often ‘write it and keep in draft’ and take an extra five will help keep your sanity and likely keep the company moving forward. 

Thanks and remember to subscribe for me to land in your inbox every Monday morning,

Danny Denhard