Define Potential Blog

Leadership in the Moment

21 September 2020

2020 has been an amazing year. I had been stretched before, but this year has presented a whole new range of challenges.

From the bushfires and hail of January through the initial wave of Covid-19 and home schooling… It is safe to say my skills as a Company Director, Leader and mother have been pushed.

I appreciate that everyone has had their own 2020 journey, but in recent weeks when we identified that this situation may not shift for a while, I have come to the realisation that we need to:

  • Lead in the moment
  • Navigate ambiguity, and
  • Support our staff where they are.

At this time, I am drawn to the work of Dr Adam Fraser to help the leaders that I know (and myself) navigate the workplace and lead. Fraser (2012) notes that life is full of small transitions from parent to employee to leader and how managing these transitions will make us more productive, especially during these challenging times.

In 2012, Dr Adam Fraser introduced us to the concepts of the third space and micro-transitions.

The third space is the transition space between roles/environments/tasks. It is the space that sits between the first and second space and it is the zone where we learn from the first space and prepare for optimal performance in the second space (p. 24, 2012).

We need to consider what we do in the third space – reflect, rest, and then reset for the next space.

For me, my third space quite often happens in the car. While dropping the kids off to school I can shift from my first space (as a mother) to my second space (as a small business leader). In an environment where we are working and living at home, the third space can be a short walk around the block to gear up for your work day or a shower after work to clear your head and step back into your role as a parent.

While the shift between roles is important on any given day, I believe that the micro-transitions like walking down the corridor between meetings and other small transitions that occur throughout the day is what we need to help sharpen our focus and ultimately – to lead in the moment.

Micro-transitions are, in fact, what life is all about’ (Fraser, 2012, p. 22) and it is in this space that we can consider how we are showing up at work and what we can offer our teams.

What can a micro-transition (micro-break) look like? It can be:

  1. An opportunity to stretch
  2. Relaxation of deep breathing for a few minutes
  3. A walking meeting,
  4. Filling up your water bottle,
  5. Taking a phone call, or
  6. Walk to a colleague’s desk rather that emailing

(Apex Occupational Health and Wellness, 2020).

As a leader your micro-transitions matter. Before a meeting with a peer or staff member consider what they need from you and how you need to show up for them at this moment (what role do they need you to play). In our current working from home environments – create a mental boundary between work and home and practise being present (p. 99, 2012).

So on a daily basis how can we use our third spaces and micro-transitions more productively?

  1. Consider the roles you play on a daily basis and how you can transition more effectively.
  2. Create third space routines that you can follow.
  3. Become mindful and present so that you can support the people around you (and yourself).
  4. Schedule meetings for 50 minutes not one hour – so that you can have time to transition effectively to your next responsibility or role.
  5. Lead in the moment with empathy and compassion.

By utilising your third space and micro-transitions you will provide an opportunity to reset, gain balance and reduce your stress.

Fraser notes that ‘a great leader in an organisation is one that manages and leads in each space.’ By doing this, ‘They seek to understand and inspire, they have empathy and they put their teams into a state of calm focus’ (p. 32, 2012).

Let’s use this time of ambiguity to focus on our people and lead in each space.

Jane Marburg, Managing Director, Define Potential

Jane has worked within the HR consultancy, general management and business development fields for the past seventeen years developing an excellent understanding of leadership, management and recruitment issues within the Australian Public Sector (APS).

Jane is a highly-experienced leader with extensive project management and contract management experience. Over a number of years, she was the contract manager for a large number of APS recruitment, learning and development panels, including the Australian Public Service Commission Recruitment, Learning and Development Panel and the Department of Industry panel.


Apex Occupational Health and Wellness, 2020,heart%20disease%209%20Better%20work-life%20balance%20More%20

Dr Adam Fraser ‘The Third Space’ at Happiness & Its Causes 2013:

Fraser, A., 2012. The third space: Using life’s little transitions to find balance and happiness. Random House Australia.

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