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The PROBLEM with Walls: How stepping back can lead to stepping up

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

Are You Too Close To The Wall

Recently I was spending time with a Manager I had been coaching. She told me that although we had only spent a short amount of time together she was feeling more confident, felt stronger and was more in control.

One thing had surprised her.

She said that she was seeing, and dealing with, things within her service that she had not seen before.

I told this this was because she had ‘stepped away from the wall’. When she asked what I meant I explained it like this;

Imagine you had employed me to come and reorganise your office to achieve maximum efficiency.

On the first day I had come in and stood with my nose to the wall. I am able to tell you exactly how the few bricks I can see look to me. I can describe those few bricks in great detail. But this viewpoint will not help me in understanding what is going on in that office.

I then take a step back and can see how the wall is constructed, the pattern of the mortar, the different shades of colour within the bricks, maybe even see as far as the corners. Still not enough to fully evaluate the current situation.

it is only when I step right back away from the wall that I can truly get an idea of the office layout, the dynamics of the people who come and go, and understand what is going on.


The wall is not only physical.

We also have mental walls that keep us short-sighted and unable to move forward.

It is a problem of distance.

Being too close can keep us blinkered and stuck where we are. Sometimes we just need to stand back, observe, evaluate and take appropriate action.

And this includes in our heads as well. Mentally stepping back means putting away pre-conceived ideas, suspending what we believe to be true, and seeing a situation with fresh eyes.

Martyn Dawes is a Coach, Social Care Consultant, and Author of The Overwhelmed Manager: What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

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