Holding space and being a space holder for a team in a project is similar to holding space for an event, but now we’re in it for the longer haul. An event is typically super busy and expressive and keeps you on your toes for the hours or days it lasts. And then it’s over, and you can go back to everyday life. But when you hold space for a team in a project, this IS typically everyday life for a longer period of time, possibly months, maybe even years.
As with the event, you have multiple stakeholders: the project and its purpose, the individual team members, the team as a collective, and then other stakeholders, such as donors, suppliers, end users, etc. Not to mention yourself, not only as a space holder but also in any other role you might perform in the team.
Characteristics of a space holder holding space for a TEAM in a PROJECT:
- The same as the characteristics for a space holder for events, where you translate the event purpose with the project purpose instead. In a team in a project you need to be aware of both individuals, groups, physical settings as well as the project purpose. Possibly even BOTH the project purpose AND a subset of it, being the team purpose.
- But with a team in a project, you probably also need patience and stamina for the longer haul. To plan and hold space for an event lasting a couple of hours or a day for a smaller group of people can be strenuous and demanding, and require a lot of energy and concentration – everything is time sensitive and needs to be coming together exactly at the time of the event. With a team in a project, it’s more about providing an atmosphere conducive to pursuing the project and team purpose “all the time”, for the duration of the project. Which requires a “constant” or at least regular sensing into what kind of atmosphere is needed at any given time, and providing it.
- In a team in a project, different things are in focus at different times during the project process. This most likely means that the atmosphere should be different and not the same all the time. If we use Tuckman’s stages of development as an example, four phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for a team to grow, face up to challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work, and deliver results: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. And it is not necessarily the same settings and atmosphere you need in all of them. My personal experience with teams is also, that you might cycle through these phases several times during a project, each time (hopefully) reaching to a deeper level of trust and congruence, performing better together. But this means that you need to be able to sense into what is needed in any given now. You need to have the patience and stamina to do it over and over again, and also the skills to see what is going on, and teasing out all the intricate threads in the yarn when they are blocking each others way.
- This means that being a space holder for a team in a project probably also requires some kind of professional skills applicable to the type of team and type of project. You probably need skills regarding dealing with different personality types and high performing teams (such as delivered by eg. MBTI and Belbin), you might need practical knowledge about projects and processes, and you might need at least superficial knowledge about the project purpose, so that you can sense into it on various levels. Both to supply the right resources at the right time and also to know when to get out of the way when the various talents are doing their magic along the project process.
Example: Holding space for one person but in a team setting
This video was an online meeting between five women, myself included, where I ended up being a time keeper for a Theory U case clinic process for one of the participants, as she had a leadership issue she wanted some input to. In this team, we are not exactly a project team, but we are a sort of a team because we meet monthly to discuss matters important to us (and to the world, we think), in a setting called “Women Matters”.
The Theory U Case Clinic is a process, where the group (or team) hold space for one person exploring her issue. You can read more about the Theory U case clinic process here.
The Theory U case clinic process starts around minute 18.
Suggestions as to how you might train and embody these characteristics of space holding: