Embrace the White Space

In my role at Vanderbilt University, I often talk to students about their career aspirations. Most of those discussions involve a brief exchange about my experience and the decisions I’ve made throughout my career. I typically share two things about my work life.

The first focuses on the information that is on my resume – organizations I’ve worked at, jobs I’ve held, and results that I helped deliver.

The second addresses items that aren’t listed on my resume. They exist in the white space between what I share in print. The white spaces are the places where I messed up, but learned a great deal. Made bad decisions, but came out better because of the experience. There is a lot of growth and development that happens in those white spaces.

I recently talked to Liz Wiseman about her forthcoming book, Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact.

Liz is the author of two New York Times Bestsellers, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools. At one point, Liz and I started talking about another type of white space where learning happens. It’s the white space between the blocks on an organizational chart. It’s in those spaces where team members step out of their comfort zones to connect, teams work across functions, and departments/divisions come together to make big things happen.

After my conversation with Liz, I sat down and captured four great outcomes that come from working in the white space on the organizational chart:

  1. Vision is realized
  2. Relationships are forged
  3. Problems are solved
  4. Systems are improved

Our podcast this week features a conversation with World Record Holder Lucy Westlake. As a 17-year-old mountaineer, Lucy understands the importance of thriving in white spaces. The difference is that the white spaces Lucy encounters are snow covered mountain tops. Nonetheless, they also require collaboration, communication, and trust.

Today’s tool and video are designed to help you to think about the white space in your organizational chart and how you can make foster better collaboration, communication, and trust in that space.


Photo from @markfb on Unsplash