Over the last two weeks, I've shared three primary ingredients for building stronger leadership prowess as an individual and as a team. The three were: show up for yourself (addressed in part 1), show up as a team (addressed in part 2), and hold a big "container" (which we're diving into now).
The "container" I refer to is not about holding someone in a box or constraining your employees, but rather about creating more belief, possibility and space; what you believe is possible for them, how you regard them, the potential you see in them, and how you hold them as whole, wonderful, magnificent, and capable--or not. The ability to hold a safe container is one of your leadership super powers.
The secret super sauce here is that your employee (and the people in your life for that matter) will step into whatever size container you hold for them (if they want it.) In other words, hold your employee (or spouse/partner/kid) as brilliant and "up to it" and responsible, and they're more likely to step into that. Hold them as lame, incapable, or small, they're more likely to show you that. You have impact here.
5 levels of "container holding" and, regardless of the level, the Container Game to boot.
1. You think about this person and you immediately feel inspired and hopeful.You believe in this person, you trust them, you want the best for them, you know they're hot stuff, and you wholeheartedly want to do everything you can to help them step up to the next level and beyond. Even better, you see where they could be now and believe that them "leapfrogging" to that next place is the way to go. You even have a suggestion for pathways.
2. You believe in this person and know they're capable of bigger. You believe in this person, you want more for them, you know that if they put themselves "into it", they'll move. You know there's work to do, and you are also there to champion them. You can see it, they might not--yet. It's not light years ahead, but it's bigger than where they're at now, and you're up for holding it with them.
3. You want to believe in this person, you like them, but you're not sure they're up to it. That's cool. Get really curious here. What are they not up to? Should they be? What's important about it? What's getting in their way? How might you help? What feedback is needed? What's the biggest thing you can authentically hold for them? Communicate it and create a plan.
4. You don't believe in this person--when you think of them your heart sinks. As their leader you have a job to do here; 1) either find something to believe in them--truly (use empathy, compassion, curiosity, care, assuming good to find this), 2) find someone else that can believe in them and have them help you get perspective and craft a plan, 3) have someone else take them on as their mentor or business lead, 4) have a direct caring conversation with the employee exploring the disconnect, or 5) if none of these work, you can't shift your mindset, you can't find anyone else that believes in them enough to mentor and support them, and it's just simply a bad fit--it may be time to let that person go. Set them free. They're likely not feeling the love or feeling all that great about it anyway. Believe in the human being over there and do what's right and loving for all of you--the business and the employee.
5. Play the "Container Game". For any of these, up-level the game. What's the container you hold for each of your employees? Whether they're at #1 or #4, you might ask yourself: 1) What do I see is possible for this person? 2) Who are they becoming? 3) What's getting in their way? 4) What's the littlest thing I can do to support them? (In the case of scenario 4, this one might be simply in helping them find a graceful exit.)
First step: awareness--know where you are. Second step: action. Identify, honestly, where you're at for your employee, and then decide what to do with it. You may or may not decide to share this game with them, the key thing here is simply that you're aware of how you're holding them, what you're holding as possible, and what you can do to contribute to them. This awareness alone has the ability to create a shift in intention and presence, moving you and your employee (or partner/kid/team member) onto new levels.
This article first appeared on Inc.com on March 2, 2015