and/or the vulnerability and challenge needed to reach true Professional Intimacy at Level 5. Achieving Level 5 isn’t always possible, the model is meant to be descriptive not prescriptive, opening out the idea of what a relationship is, so that we can approach the ones we have with more awareness and challenge. In Nick’s case, he was able to do some stakeholder mapping using the Relationship Ladder, to help analyse how strong his relationships were. Like many people, he found that they were not as strong as he might have assumed, and he was able to work out which needed work. It takes two to tango, and it was pretty obvious that Nick’s boss was unlikely to leap up the ladder with Nick.

needed from him. His boss found all this excruciating, avoiding eye contact, wriggling in his chair and bringing the meeting to an early close. "Now there’s a guy who needs some coaching", I thought as we left. The funny thing is, he has never asked for it and, indeed, has never asked me to coach any of his people since.

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

Nonetheless, the next step in his coaching was to sit down with his boss and share what he had learnt. How open would he be able to be? How vulnerable? How well would he cope if his boss failed to respond empathically? In the event, he did brilliantly and I felt very proud of him, as I told him afterwards. He was able to tell his manager how he had entered into a vicious spiral through projecting his issues with fathers on to both him and his team, and show how he was going to change that. The most poignant moment came when he told his boss how upset he had been by the way he’d been treated, but that he knew that he wasn’t going to receive what he

So, Create Space rests on two insights: We have become the first generation in one thousand generations of human beings who, rather than having the need to fill space, have the need to create it. Before you set out to grow as a leader you must first create the space that you will grow into. Creating space is the priori task that unlocks optimal personal performance, potential and wellbeing. If you want to be a real success at work - or as a HR professional inspire that in others - with all the excitement, satisfaction and rewards that entails, you must step back and embrace the idea of ‘first creating space’ as the animating idea and organising principle of how you approach your working life. This is the key to unlocking your true potential and becoming the biggest success, you have it in you to be. Each decision, every action, all your plans must begin with the creation of the space into which they will be realised.

As you are an audience of senior HR practitioners, to conclude, I thought I would share with you one more encounter, which I hope will provide food for thought. A newly-appointed global HR director of a big tech company, who was nominally responsible for tens of thousands of employees, and was feeling swamped by the multiple demands on her time: “I don’t have time to stop and think”, she complained. After listening to her moan for a bit, I asked if we could go through that day’s diary. By being very tough, we managed to claw back two hours. Half of that time consisted of things that, on reflection, she realised could be delegated to someone in her team, or left for them to do alone, instead of her feeling she had to ride shotgun. The other hour was the result of cancelling two ‘get to know you’ meetings. She really resisted this, feeling that she would

hurt the people’s feelings if she cancelled, and set the relationships off on a bad foot. In the end, she sent both an email telling the truth: “I feel swamped and need to create some space to think, so although I’m looking forward to meeting you, I’d like to do it in a few weeks rather than now. I feel rude doing this but hope it’s OK”. She received two lovely, empathic emails in return, one even said, “good for you - I need time for that too and now I have an extra half an hour today to pause for a moment”. All too often, we end up doing what we think we should do, rather than what we have decided we need to do.


18 | thehrdirector | MAY 2019


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