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The Journal Gazette

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Lisa Green 

Thursday, August 31, 2017 11:00 pm

Great leaders know how to use "white space"

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette


You’re probably uncomfortable, aren’t you?

Busy bee.


Stop and take a breath, or two.

A pause is the “most endangered element of modern work," said Juliet Funt, CEO of Whitespace At Work, and one of the speakers at this year’s Global Leadership Summit.

The two-day leadership conference is broadcast annually in August from a church in South Barrington, Illinois, to hundreds of satellite sites including Fort Wayne, where more than 4,200 registered to attend.

Failing to take a pause – Funt also calls this “white space” – is a recipe for 100 percent exertion and often the reason people can’t generate “break-through ideas.”

Great leaders use white space, Funt said. She mentioned former General Electric CEO Jack Welch as one example, saying he spent an hour a day looking out a window, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who was known to spend two weeks a year in a cottage.

White space can be defined by what it is and what it isn’t. Let’s start with the latter.

White space is not meditation. It is not “mind wandering” when your mind “slips away without permission,” Funt said.

White space has no goal. The mind can play; you can allow your thoughts to follow instinct.

Funt suggested two critical steps to increase the odds that you’ll make strategic white space part of your work routine.

First, be conscious of “the thieves,” such as the unceasing alerts that new email has landed in your inbox or other attention grabbers. Defeat them with crucial questions. Is there anything you can let go? Is “good enough” good enough?

One factor that fuels overload is the constant pursuit of excellence. The speed and inundation of information and feeling a need to always be active are also factors, Funt said. They’re all generally good, but can run amok. They “lure us into a pace that can reduce our overall effectiveness,” she said.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears as a column in The Journal Gazette's Sunday Business section.