Are you a sucker for a blank page?

February 11, 2019

I’m such a sucker for a blank page.

Where else can you imagine so much possibility?

I think it’s for this reason that I always love pages without lines – it somehow feels less constrained, with more opportunities ‘to write my own path’.

With this freedom though, can come a feeling of being overwhelmed.

With all that possibility, where do you start?

Suddenly the thought of ‘messing up’ can become the most paralysing thing, and the result is that you do nothing and retreat back to the ‘safety’ of the pre-prescribed lines on a familiar page.

I often remember going through this with a team in a business I ran many years ago now. They were determined to have more autonomy to run the show – and I proudly created an environment where they had it. I gave them less layers of management, less rules, more ability to be their own boss. The thing that I missed though, is that with the great freedom needed to come more structure– in the form of setting out my expectations, what they were accountable for and also, showing them how to take their first step.

So this is the paradox - if you are someone who wants to generate possibilities and ideas, having zero structure - a totally blank page – can be both inspiring and yet totally overwhelming.

These are the things I do to ‘structure my freedom’ – and for someone who easily feels constrained, and who has always just ‘jumped in’ this has been a massive learning curve (yep, another one)!

Whether you are reading this for yourself, or wondering how to apply this to a team  - and if you have staff, you should be looking at this from both angles – the same rules apply.

A totally ‘blank page’ usually ends in chaos, confusion and disappointment – a blank page with some structure around it can yield phenomenal results.

1.      Always have a north star,a big vision to guide your actions.

You know I obsess about vision. I do this because if you don’t know where you want to end up, you can never know what decisions you need to make now. I always start with the big vision – the 3, 5 and 10 year statement of where I want to be.

The next layer to this is that vision is not just for the big stuff. You also need a vision for the next month, the next quarter, the next year, too. These statements, when articulated clearly and accompanied by a strong understanding of your ‘why’ – provide the ultimate grounding and direction. Metaphoricallyspeaking, think of this as defining the sandbox in which you can now play and experiment to your heart's content.

2.      Invest in understanding your capabilities and spend time and money constantly learning and growing.

So one of the challenges for my ‘self-managing’ teams all those years ago was that I sent them into this new environment with a blank page - the catch being that I hadn’t given them the skills and the confidence they needed to ‘write their own lines’.

The learning here is that you first need to understand where you (or your team) are at with regard to skills and experience, and then put a plan in place to keep building on that knowledge. I don’t care who you are, there is always more to learn and skills to refine. Once you acknowledge this, you actually remove the fear that you are meant to know everything already, and therefore look‘stupid’ if you have to ask.

For teams and leaders alike, this realisation is truly liberating.

3.      This is not a solo game –the people and capability you surround yourself with is everything

The power of these self-managing teams – once we started to get into our groove, was that everyone knew what role they played and what their unique skill was. Rather than having one person who had to be great at client conversations,processes and business development for example, we acknowledged that different people had different expertise, and if they were allowed to work together as one unit, using their respective ‘zones of genius’ together, then the results could be (and were) phenomenal.

This is another thing I write and speak about all the time. Take the time to know what your zone of genius is – and then stick to it. Supplement it with the right team around you and together, you will make magic.

So guess what - that blank page just became even more exciting, and less overwhelming. And do you know why? Because I don’t feel the pressure to have to fill that space with stuff I know nothing about! Just the stuff that inspires me and that I am great at.

So if like me, you are a sucker for a blank page – embrace it. And if, like me,you need some structure to achieve some freedom, then try out these steps for yourself – trust me.

That paradox of ‘structuring your freedom’? It works.


If you need help:

·        Putting some structure around your ‘blank page’;

·        Creating an environment where your team can 'write their own lines';

·        Crafting and articulating your vision; or

·        Understanding how to identify and stick to your zone of genius –


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