My husband and I love to travel. We come by it naturally – both his parents and my parents served as missionaries as we grew up. About a year after we were married, my husband and I took a trip that included time in London, Paris, and Scotland. Shane had spent his high school years in Scotland, so in part he was going “home”. London was the first place I had ever traveled that had a subway system. I was intrigued by the easily accessible, quick transport that was cheap, too! My favorite part of the whole subway experience was when the crisp, automated female voice with the British accent declared,
“Mind the gap!”
She warned us constantly. She didn’t want anyone falling into the space between the platform and the subway car. In addition to her warnings, there were signs posted everywhere with the same words,
“Mind the gap!”
I’m pretty sure we even saw coffee mugs and t-shirts with the saying emblazoned on them…
I hadn’t thought about London in several years. But then last week, the topic of gaps came up several times, and I thought back to our time in the British subway system. We cannot allow ourselves to go through life ignoring the gaps. A gap can be defined as a difference in character, or a lack of understanding. We have gaps in our personal lives, in our relationships, in our teams, and in our own leadership.
So what do we do about it?
Identify the gaps
If we aren’t aware of the gaps in our lives, then we are in danger of stumbling, getting caught in them, or even seriously hurting ourselves or those around us. So how do you identify them? You can begin by evaluating where you thrive, and where you are struggling. Sometimes we can easily see our own weak points, but often we need the help of those around us to help us see them. What does that mean? It means being very vulnerable and asking others to point out areas in your life that need work. Our natural tendency is to identify the gaps in others before ourselves. The Bible even talks about it in Matthew chapter 7, where Jesus tells us “you look at the bit of sawdust in your friend’s eye, but you pay no attention to the plank of wood in your own eye.” Jesus goes on to remind us that when we take care of our own gaps first, we will then be able to see clearly in order to help others.
If you are ready to identify the gaps in your team, make sure you have first identified your own gaps.
Attack the gaps
Gaps won’t disappear simply because you’ve identified them. They must be attacked in order to close them up. Individual gaps may close with the help of coaching. Ask someone to help you see the problem, and then ask them to hold you accountable when you stumble back into that same gap. Allow a coach to guide you through how to avoid the same issues repeatedly.
Being willing to grow and learn is essential when attacking the gaps. Looking for excuses as to why your gaps exist will not close them. Instead, take responsibility for your gaps, and look for opportunities to change. Then create action plans and monitor your progress. The more you are willing to work hard on attacking your gaps, the more you will see them closing.
Fill the gaps
Gaps are already dangerous, but there is an even more potentially dangerous component that you must be aware of. Before we are able to close our gaps, we are going to temporarily fill them with either trust or suspicion. If we consistently choose to fill gaps with suspicion – unable to see the positive or move forward, our gaps will never actually close. Instead, I want to encourage you to assume the best -the best about people, about motives, about struggles, about potential.
Gaps can be frightening, discouraging, and overwhelming. But let me leave you with this quote from Jane Campion, a critically acclaimed screenwriter,
“There is that sort of feeling that people don’t know what to do with the gaps in their lives. It’s a scary notion, but actually, if you can stand in space just for a little while, a new door will open, or you will be able to see in the dark after a while. You’ll adjust.”