Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Go, go, go? NO!

When you must stop in order to move forward

This blog was already written. Then yesterday, Harvard Business Review came out with this article: “Building Healthy Habits When You’re Truly Exhausted.”

It’s a very similar theme. But today you are one step ahead of HBR… this will help you before you get burned out.  

We all have this notion that leaders should “take charge” or “push forward.” A leader should always be with their team for optimum effectiveness, right?

Yes, in most cases, but certainly not all. Why?


A leader’s primary role is to create the future ~ Mark Miller


In Mark Miller’s book Smart Leadership, he notes that creating the future for your team can’t be accomplished if you are always in the middle of everything.

Mark makes a very important observation: Leaders must NOT see the future as only an improved or expanded version of the present. [This is not about incremental improvement, which is where we usually spend our time!] Your vision must be EXEMPLARY, and not normal. As a leader, you should transcend your creativity and logic to be able to come up with a vision that will unleash the potential of your entire team.

How do we even begin to think that way? Buckle your seat belts for this one… the answer is liminal space.

Yes, that is in English. The meaning of “liminal space” is very close to SPACE and MARGIN.

Basically, this “liminal” space is sort of like being in limbo—a place between the past and the future. And it’s where leaders tend to come up with the craziest, and the BEST ideas.

Can you slow down enough to stop basing everything on a better version of the what happened in the past and dream about the future as if you had all the resources you needed to accomplish your dream?

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t done this as often as I should. But the times I have done it are milestones in my life. Here are two quick examples.

First, when I was approached by John Maxwell about giving leadership in one of his organizations. Since it was all new to me, I didn’t ask “Why?” instead I was asking “Why couldn’t we?” I thought and prayed and started to envision the best future that I could for the leaders of tomorrow, not the leaders we were already reaching today. In reality, we didn’t get to do all the things I imagined, but we accomplishED some things that surprised even John Maxwell.

Second, a client wanted to start a new division in their organization of 250 people. As a consultant, you want to say yes to everything, because that is how you get additional income. But I learned a long time ago not to do that. Instead, I often push back on client ideas, to find out if they really believe what they are saying they want. Finally, the client said “We don’t want a new division in our organization, what we really want is to serve thousands of people that are not being served right now.” That gave us all permission to enter “liminal space” and dream about the best way to serve that underserved population.

No holds barred. Not “What’s best for us?” but “What is the best future, even if it looks nothing like our past?”

Here’s my question: Do you go there? If not, how could you possibly CREATE the future of our visions?


Here are a few steps you can take to start creating more margin for yourself:

  1. Schedule your focus time. A great leader I served under always had 1 pm to 3 pm scheduled in his calendar. It was for dreaming, prayer, and planning.
  2. Engage in a morning ritual and stick to it. More alone times can help establish a “margin” mindset.
  3. Daily recap. Similar to your morning ritual, establish a few minutes to yourself before your day ends to ask yourself if you created the space you needed to create the future.
  4. Personal retreats. Some of my friends take at least a day per month. Most of them take one or two days per quarter. Many of them do an annual recap and vision time the week between Christmas and New Year. I’ve seen them come away with game changing ideas for their team.


So, are you ready to hit pause and stop for a few minutes, or few days? Remember, the best leaders hit “pause.”


What about you? Fast forward… or pause?


Much love,


Dr. Rob

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