per se - need to address at least one of the four core areas. Three-quarters needed to create more space to connect. Nearly half needed to create more space to think, a third the space to do, and roughly ten percent need to create more space to be. None of this is surprising because “creating space” fosters the most important leadership capabilities that organisations need.

Let us consider a case study: Nick is the newly-promoted MD in a division of a big UK manufacturing company. He has, hitherto, been a high-flyer, but people are now experiencing him as abrasive, moody and overdemanding. His boss is beginning to question whether he’s been over-promoted and whether he has the maturity for this bigger job. In the first session, Nick was surly and dismissive. Whatever he may have been feeling, he looked pretty miserable and, I am afraid, that rubbed off on the people he was with, including me. He sat forward on his chair and seemed tense, as if he was containing a lot of repressed energy, his shirt straining across his biceps. I felt ever-so slightly intimidated. Straightaway I suspected that he had a problem both with ‘authority figures’ and also with asking for help. I felt he didn’t trust me and wanted me to know it. Nick had a pretty deprived upbringing. Brought up on a rough council estate, he’d been picked on as a ‘swat’. His dad had been a drunk and had left home when Nick was very young. His mum had brought him and his younger brother up on her own until she remarried when he was about ten. His stepdad was a decent bloke, but never really bonded with Nick - who admitted he hadn’t made it easy - and was the sort of guy never to show emotion. He’d also been super-critical of Nick, and seemed more jealous than proud of his academic and sporting achievements.

Nick’s cocky guardedness began to crack when he told me that he had never had a hug from his stepdad, but that was OK, he hadn’t minded. ‘So you don’t hug your kids’? I asked with mock naiveté. ‘Of course I do,’ he shot back. ‘Why bother, when they wouldn’t mind if you didn’t’? I retorted. This exchange triggered a real change in our relationship and he began

to open up. When he had a fix on what he was feeling and, crucially, felt safe enough to express it, he could admit to me that he felt scared and unappreciated. It was this that made him appear defensive and brittle. It became clear that underneath his tough-guy bravado, he yearned for someone to tell him he was doing well, and this was where the problem lay. For Nick’s boss was an ex- consultant whose sky-high IQ sadly wasn’t matched by his EQ (emotional intelligence). He was distant, uncommunicative and unempathetic. He would withdraw from Nick and let him fend for himself and, even when he did pay him attention, there was never any praise, just criticism and a push for more. In a not untypical twist, these unhelpful dynamics played out between Nick and his team too, where he – unconsciously - treated them as he had been treated.

Isn’t the idea of “creating space” a bit “airy fairy”? How does it relate to the “coal- face” of business? Well, everything - it’s the key to combining a maximising of productivity with a maximising of wellbeing. Two things that are not contradictions - or even separate - but intrinsically linked

There was another breakthrough moment when I read to him some of the feedback I’d gleaned from his team in a series of phone calls. As I read their

anonymous responses he stared at me and swearing he said, “that’s Ron, my stepdad, isn’t it? Word for word.” Nick’s core pathogenic belief - an unconscious assumption about ourselves and the world from the past that was unhealthy now - was that he was unworthy and unlovable. When his colleagues experienced him as a truculent eight-year-old, that is because, at that moment, that was exactly who he psychically was. Breaking these toxic patterns required Nick to work on his self-esteem. He had to accept the aching need he had for praise and affirmation and stop pretending these things were beneath him. He also had to face the sadness and anger that resulted. Most critically, he had to accept that the love he needed - for that is what it really was - was clearly not going to come from either of his two “dads” and certainly not from his rather cold boss. It could only come from himself.

We worked through a programme called Break Free from the Past, which helps people identify their core, pathogenic belief, and then enables them to work on replacing the harsh voice of their internal critic, with the supportive voice of their internal ally. We looked at how Nick could allow himself to feel more vulnerable, we spent some time exploring how he could change his relationships with his team, using the idea of Professional Intimacy. The first step on the ladder is to be together, which involves honesty, reciprocity and boundaries. The next level, which is entitled ‘connected’ adds in presence, openness and authenticity. The next, ‘caring’ adds in respect, acceptance and empathy. Then ‘rely’ adds in trust, forgiveness and resilience. To reach the top of the ladder, Level 5, entitled Professional Intimacy - there needs to be a real sense of psychological safety, alongside a willingness to be vulnerable and a comfort with real challenge. It is worth noting that Nick and his manager had never even achieved Level 1! This is not unusual as, most often, even those who think they have really good relationships at work realise that they are stuck at one of the first three levels. They often stumble around the trust and forgiveness required to reach Level 4

MAY 2019 | thehrdirector | 17

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