Leadership Capacity for Holding Space In Practice

I wrote in the last blog about holding space as an essential leadership capacity. Let me now share an example with you. I was recently working with a consulting client to review his business’ financials, recommend areas to focus on improving and discuss strategies for raising capital.

This client is a local business with deep connections to his community and great passion for his business. Unfortunately, he has made some poor choices in taking capital at a very high interest rate. He has good revenue but a cost structure that is still below break-even. The session involved sharing this bad news and exploring what he could do to turn the business around, all in a loving but frank discussion.

I knew the client was apprehensive and nervous about hearing our assessment, so I opened with a brief breathing exercise to ensure we were each fully embodied and present for the discussion. To do this, I asked everyone present to close their eyes and take a few deep, slow breaths. As we breathed, I asked that we allow any thoughts of fear, doubt or judgment and anything else on our minds to drift away as we loosen our attachment to every thought we brought into the room so that we could give more full attention to our session together. Notice, I did not suggest that we forget all those other things on our minds. That would not be realistic. But, it is possible that we allow our attention to move away from those thoughts so that they remain in the background during our meeting. This is suspension.

I then asked the client about his business – why he started the business, what is his vision and what he wants from it. This connected him with his passion for the business and lifted his energy. It also allowed each of us in the meeting to also connect with his passion, as we were able to feel the love for his business, employees and the community. This elevated energy provided the foundation to now engage the more difficult discussion. This is resourcing.

During his response to my resourcing questions, the client had tears in his eyes as the emotion of struggling for over five years to build his business came to the surface. We simply created space to allow for this expression to simply be just as it was.

With these elements in place, we aligned with the intention for the session to look honestly and fully at the financials of the business to better understand what can be done to stabilize and begin to grow the business. After everyone expressed their alignment with this intention, I reviewed the financial analysis and shared our observations along with recommendations of what he could do to improve the business performance.

Once we completed this review, the energy in the room was a bit heavy from the honest and even painful look at the business. As a result, I wanted to bring everyone back to a more grounded, generative space before beginning to discuss the possible strategies he might implement to address our findings. To do this I utilized the Active Pause  – a process for taking a mindful pause that makes it easier to integrate the experience we are having. This allowed us all to once again be fully open for a strategic discussion.

During this review, the client shared that he has difficulty trusting people until he has had the time to create the intimacy of a relationship. Yet he had been comfortable with me from that first breathing exercise even though I had not met him prior to this session. I am confident this was in large part due to the space I held for the experience and the conscious steps I took to focalize the Dynamic Link.