Wishing mom on her 80th birthday when I hugged her, she softly whispered, “You’ve taken such good care of me all these years. I got more than I could’ve asked for, and feel truly content. Today I want to declare that this year I’m ready to go to daddy (my dad had passed away more than twenty years ago).”
That moment suddenly took me through a roller-coaster of emotions. How I wanted to tell her she shouldn’t say that, especially on her birthday! But as I looked at her face, all I could see there was sheer joy, peace, fulfilment, and excitement of a teenager to go and be with her love.
Mom had been having major health issues for several years and was often in immense pain, yet she didn’t say she was tired of life. Instead, she had created this journey to a destination that felt exciting to her. What a level of acceptance and awareness!
In that moment I told myself, “Can I simply take over the role of holding the space for her?”
Holding the space for someone can be an incredibly profound experience.
I was now going to operate from a space of being Neutral, Empathetic, and Non-judgmental. Asking my often compulsive ‘take charge’ attitude as well as my identity to take a back seat, I decided to just be, while trusting and respecting mom’s choices for her own life. Honestly, it was often not easy. So it became imperative that I hold space for my own self simultaneously, and focus on self-care too. A few months later, mom moved on.
This experience taught me the need to practice holding the space in our work environment. I strongly feel this has become all the more important today than it ever was. Every leader must inculcate this attribute of holding space for others.
This seemingly ORDINARY ACTION has the potential to create EXTRAORDINARY OUTCOMES.
Here are some broad guidelines for leaders to practice ‘Holding the Space’:
- Be inclusive
- Have deep listening
- Be non-judgmental and empathetic
- Encourage people to be their authentic selves
- Be in mindful awareness
- Be willing to accept the other in a space beyond right or wrong
- Creating a safe space for others to express freely
- While focusing on the next project /task, focus on the person as well
While holding the space, you will be extending unconditional and even unsolicited support to others. That does not mean you need to have all the answers to their problems. It simply means you are engaging with them authentically and are present to them.
An effective leader is someone who is apparently doing nothing and yet doing everything, by simply playing the role of a Catalyst, while holding space for others.