Patricia Campanile, Senior Edgewalker Associate
In Dr. Judi Neal’s book “Edgewalkers”, she explains the five Archetypes of Change that people and organizations may adopt, depending on the situation. They affect the extent to which the organization can truly be on the leading edge. Placeholders, one of the Edgewalker Archetypes of Change, provide stability and predictability to the organization. One key positive point about Placeholders is that they keep the organization stable. They are the keepers of the boundaries and can keep an organization from going over the edge. However, a shadow side of Placeholders is their propensity to resist change for the sake of change and are comfortable with routine. They tend to be focused on the past, but sometimes the past actually was better than the current situation.
As a certified Edgewalker Coach & Facilitator, I often work with clients on how to successfully navigate through the stages of transition. I support organizations, individuals and businesses to thrive and transform through change and uncertainty and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. The purpose of the Placeholder is holding the best practices of the company. They contribute to the necessary building blocks in creating a sustainable, strong foundation for new and innovative ideas as well as solidifying what is working. In a healthy way, Placeholders are the stable container, grounding the organization from going over the edge. They can bring forward from the past what works, which can be beneficial to future growth and evolution.
In the midst of transitions, whether internal or external, the Placeholders resistance can create conflict, stagnation and missed opportunities. Too focused on the past, afraid of change and the unknown, hesitant to take a risk, Placeholders can block the innovation and fresh ideas needed to create a new and thriving company that needs to be in sync with the current marketplace. As an Edgewalker, one of the ways I effectively have worked with a Placeholder is holding space for them to balance their healthy and shadow side.
What does it mean to “hold space” for someone else. It means I am willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When I hold space for other people, I open my heart, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control. Sometimes I find myself holding space for people while they hold space for others. Placeholders can find it challenging and meaningful to hold space for the organization. It’s virtually impossible to be a strong space (place)holder unless we have others who will hold space for us. Even the strongest leaders and coaches need to know that there are some people with whom they can be vulnerable and weak without fear of being judged.
In my own roles as coach and facilitator, wife and friend, I do my best to hold space for other people in the same way. It’s not always easy because as a natural coach I have a very human tendency to want to fix people, give them advice, or judge them for not being further along the path than they are, but I keep trying because I know that it’s important. At the same time, there are people in my life that I trust to hold space for me. To truly support Placeholders (and anyone for that matter) in letting go, opening to their own growth and transformation, I have learned that I can’t do it by taking their power away, shaming them, or overwhelming them. I have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes. Holding space is not something that I can master overnight. It is unique not only in supporting Placeholders and their purpose, but each person and each situation. It is a balancing act, a complex skill that evolves as I willingly practice it.