“The three things that motivate creative people – autonomy, mastery, purpose!”Daniel H. Pink, American author
Space to Learn
I don’t like having dirty hands, anything under my fingernails, or not being able to answer my phone. When you do pottery, you have all three – at the same time. But let’s start at the beginning…
After I got married to my first husband many years ago, I moved to a new area. I didn’t know many people and I was looking for a new hobby. A friend suggested that I join her at a pottery class.
I was hooked after the first lesson. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I found the whole process very interesting.
I learned all the beginner’s techniques for making clay pots, from pinching to coiling, slabbing to molding. But all the while, I was itching to get behind the potter’s wheel. It would be a tricky skill to master but I was determined to learn.
Thankfully, the instructor was great. She would demonstrate what to do, provide support while you were practicing, and eventually leave you to your own devices.
Often, she would watch from a distance and only step in when absolutely necessary. She allowed us to make mistakes, and to make ugly pots. I’m sure she could see, long before the creation was finished, that it wasn’t going to be pretty. But she didn’t interfere.
She gave us space to figure things out for ourselves. In short, she enabled us to internalize our learning.
The Potter’s Wheel
Unfortunately, before I could graduate to the potter’s wheel, my husband and I relocated. After we had settled in, I found a new pottery teacher.
After testing the skills I’d already learned, I was finally allowed to use the wheel. I felt optimistic as she showed me the techniques and talked me through the process. But as I began to practice, things started to go south.
Instead of giving me space as the previous teacher had, this one hovered over my shoulder the whole time. It looked as if she had trouble keeping her hands off my clay. The longer it went on, the more nervous I became, and the less success I had, until we decided to call it a day and try again the next week.
The next class was more of the same. At last I asked her to give me space to try on my own. Once I felt less crowded, things started to look up. But as soon as the teacher noticed that, she was back behind my left shoulder.
Unsurprisingly, that was my last pottery lesson.
Crowding Out Success
My first pottery teacher understood the importance of allowing people space to practice, learn, and be creative.
The second teacher, although technically skilled, was so controlling that she hamstrung the learning process. She didn’t realize the importance of giving people space to work things out for themselves.
And Pottery Teacher Number Two is not the only culprit. Sometimes we don’t allow colleagues or employees the space that they need to grow and develop.
Sometimes we even limit our own space! By filling up our lives with technology, entertainment, and mental clutter, we don’t make space for the things that would allow us to reach our potential.
Everyone needs space to think, space to use their imagination, space to switch off, and space for those “Aha!” moments.
Make Space and See the Magic Happen
During our #MTtalk Twitter chat last Friday, we discussed the importance of giving people the space they need to succeed. Here are the questions we asked, and some of the responses we received:
Q1. Why do people crowd out others?
@hopegovind They have an inferiority complex, feel insecure… they want to prove themselves and they have a fear of missing out.
@YEPBusiness Feelings of inadequacy usually.
Q2. What actions/behaviors from others make you feel “crowded”?
@harrisonia Some actions/behaviors from others that make me feel “crowded” include: the touchy feely person (who has to make body contact to convey a point); over-talking me when you KNOW I have the floor.
@lg217 Being a manager, the one thing you should never do is micromanage. It is a disaster especially when they are on top of you every few seconds. Instead of giving you the time and space to perform certain tasks, they are watching you and leaning over your shoulder.
Q3. What does having too little space for yourself feel like?
@MicheleDD_MT It is frustrating to be hemmed in by someone else. If you let it get to you, you can lose confidence in yourself.
@CaptRajeshwar You feel like being in space, but tied down by gravity. You start getting nervous, angry, and short-tempered. Your decision making gets affected.
Q4. How does the lack of “breathing room” influence your decision making?
@BrainBlenderTec Me personally, it doesn’t as I see the “video” of options and make the decision I think will have [the] best outcome.
@realDocHecht Sometimes the lack of the “breathing room” makes it difficult to make any decisions at all.
Q5. What magic have you seen when you make space for others?
@JKatzaman Making space for others relieves you of responsibility to manage small details of the operation. Creating space is liberating.
@J_Stephens_CPA Seeing this now in my son: not freaking out over him dropping out this semester & letting him work through it. He is developing quite a plan to present to his internship employer about what he can bring to them next semester to help the company while they help him grow.
Q6. When should you ask for space?
@Midgie_MT You should ask for space when you are feeling crowded, micromanaged or when you want to try and figure things out yourself to learn.
@realDocHecht When you’re feeling uncomfortable or claustrophobic. It’s hard to think when someone is crowding your space.
Q7. What could you do if you were given the space?
@Yolande_MT We don’t even know what we can do if given the space. The problem is often that our “can’t thinking” crowds out our “can thinking.”
@harrisonia When given proper space (mentally and physically), I feel like I can tackle a mountain!
Q8. How can you ensure that your boundaries are respected when you are taking that space?
@Ganesh_Sabari One must understand that responsibilities piggyback on demand for space, and honour those responsibilities.
@JKatzaman Politely let others know your personal boundaries. Of course, you can also set up an invisible fence for entertainment.
Q9. How do you know when to lead, when to collaborate, and when to step out of the way?
@Dwyka_Consult It’s a fine balancing act. You learn to manage from a distance and move closer when necessary. Being too close is “hovering” – that’s uncomfortable. Observe, and allow people space to operate.
@BrainBlenderTec Depends on the dance: if it’s stuck, I lead; if it’s square, I collaborate; and if it’s a solo, I step out of the way.
Q10. What will you do differently now to enable magic in your team?
@MicheleDD_MT Look for growth opportunities. Allow team members to “struggle” a bit so that they can learn – don’t jump in to rescue. Have the “what did you learn” conversation.
@PmTwee Create an environment where everyone can grow, let them watch over their own shoulder.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat here.
With the holiday season in mind, we’re going to publish a blog about our highlights from 2019 instead of having a live chat on December 20. Our next live chat will take place on January 3, 2020, when we’ll discuss how to take the space that you need.
In the meantime, here are some resources relating to the topic we discussed this time: