Every time I travel to London I am reminded of the curious statement that is endlessly repeated in the Tube (London Underground) “Mind the gap.” It is an audible or visual warning phrase issued to rail passengers to take caution while crossing the horizontal, and in some cases vertical, spatial gap between the train door and the station platform. This one phrase has a curious and observable effect on the crowd. You can actually observe eyes rhythmically moving down to mind the gap as people enter the train.
I have recently been thinking about how each of us has gaps in our lives that need a little minding. For instance, how we have tendencies to allow previous setbacks to keep us from continuing to strive towards our preferred futures. I realize that I jumped pretty far out there with my illustration but hang in there with me and I’ll bring this to a practical conclusion in a moment.
If you are passionate about developing leaders then I firmly believe that you have a vision of what inspired leadership looks like. If you are like the rest of us in this profession then the current reality is much different than what we think it could be. In plain speak; we all could improve our leadership development processes and programs because we have yet to arrive at where we would like to be. So, the gap that I am referring to is between the current state of our leadership programs and the vision that we carry within us for what we know it could be.
The leadership gap is like all aspirational gaps in our life, in that progress toward crossing it takes a focused and sustained effort. Somebody has to call it into being. If I want to lose those extra 20 ponds that I’ve been carrying around, then I need to get present to my current reality and modify my life style in such a way that those 20 ponds come off in a sustainable way. Just being aware that I have gap is not enough, I need to bring my hopes for the future into my present thinking with enough clarity to create breakthrough results.
Here is one way how to mind the gap for your leadership programs. Take a moment and consider the “breakthrough” you are pursuing in the effectiveness of your leadership programs. Use your imagination to “paint a picture,” a mental image of what would be different as a result of this breakthrough, say six months or two years from now. What will the future look like and how will it differ from what is present now?
For instance, you might write, “In a year from now our leadership programs will have moved beyond training events to become personal journeys of exploration and discovery.” Or you might write, “In three months, I will institute peer-coaching from more experienced and inspirational leaders to serve as guides for emerging leaders.” Or you might write, “In six-months, I am going to use a more modern thinking and behavior assessment to replace the patch quilt of outdated assessments that make it difficult to create a consistent leadership culture.” There is no right answer to this assignment. Write what stirs your imagination and brings you hope.
Now comes the difficult part. It is supremely important that you begin to speak this future into being. That requires you to begin to share the gap that you are experiencing between the current state of your leadership programs and the vision for what you want it to be. The more you share it with others the more clear and concise your description of the gap will become. As you share the gap with others include what steps you are taking to make this vision come into being. This kind of action oriented sharing will actually begin to rally support and commitment from others, and they will become more likely to conspire with you to make it so.
P.S – I actually did lose 20 pounds at the beginning of this year. As I began to share with others the gap regarding my weight the most wonderful and transformational things began to happen. I got some excellent advice of course, but more importantly I received support and loving accountability that helped me stick with the process. Not only did I lose the weight and develop new sustainable lifestyle habits, but I have strengthened my core connections with others.