White Space

Can you lead in the “whitespace”?

You’ve worked your way up from individual contributor to supervisor, manager, and then the squeeze position of director. The top is narrow, and the skills are different. What got you here won’t keep getting you ahead. To move ahead, you must acquire and improve your skills in whitespace management, greenfielding, scenario planning, and think tank leadership. But how? You need an executive coach who can lead you though pilot projects before you attempt a large endeavor whose failure will damage your reputation and career and potentially cost your company millions of dollars.

An experienced executive coach can provide you with a safe environment to form a pilot project across a few functions. Your coach can help you prepare an abstract, frame the strategy, direct the socialization and internal sales process, establish legitimacy, mobilize resources, build momentum, and measure results. The coach can help you lead so you don’t fall into old habits that inhibit innovation.

Effective whitespace leaders quietly, subtly, and resourcefully lead successful efforts. They nurture whitespace projects by putting aside their traditional tools of planning, organizing, and controlling. Finally they learn when a whitespace project should be moved into the blackspace, kept in the whitespace indefinitely, or despite its potential success, killed off. An executive coach can shadow you through the process and realign your traditional paradigms to help you learn these important skills.

In a 2001 research project, McKinsey offered this whitespace success story.

“An executive at a major global bank developed a virtual trust business that managed assets of more than $1 billion without even appearing on top management’s (or financial control’s) radar screen. She designed and assembled products and services that had been developed for her by the bank’s asset management division and sold for her by the bank’s retail-banking division. The bank’s organization chart indicated that the executive was a “bit” player without P&L responsibility or staff. And yet she was responsible for the trust business’s P&L, and more than 70 people through out the bank as others looked to her as their informal leader.”

The wisdom of the day is that you might hit a career plateau if you can’t help your organization thrive, even in areas that you have not been assigned to lead formally. If you are the one to recognize an area of whitespace and fill that void of leadership, you can push your organization’s results to the next level. Think upside down or inside out and prepare a compelling case to get everyone’s attention at the right moment. An executive coach can help you successfully explore the next frontier for your career and company.