Leadership: The Power of "The Pause"

powerofpause Note: Dwight is currently out on leave so we are running some “best of” blog posts from his writing for the Vistage Executive Street blog that you may not have seen before. Enjoy!

Culturally, we are in a hurry, particularly in business. There is a huge driving force for results, for achievements, for action. Often just being busy looks like success. It’s gotten to the point that, as researcher Brene Brown says, “exhaustion has become a status symbol.”

The problem is new research is emerging and it looks like all this multi-tasking, fragmented attention and “busy, busy, busy” isn’t actually healthy or the recipe for success. Being in a constant state of reacting to “incoming” and jumping to respond to everything that comes your way is not leadership and constantly driving people and yourself relentlessly forward is not necessarily great leadership either.

We want to remind you of “the power of the pause.” This is a step that can be made anytime, anywhere and requires no special tools or equipment. Being able to stop yourself, gather your energy and breathe is actually an incredibly powerful and masterful leadership move that is deceptively simple.

We aren’t talking about shutting down, withdrawing, hiding or freezing. We are talking about returning to your center and a place of balance. We are talking about allowing yourself to exhale fully, (since at the pace most of us go we are halfway holding our breath), and just being thoughtful and reflective for a minute or two.

If you doubt the power of this consider the interview Oprah Winfrey did with Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. (Click here to view.) Apparently she has a policy at her company for twice per day mandatory meditation time. As she says in the interview, many people are overwhelmed by the idea of meditation so she asks that they at least unplug, and take quiet time for reflection. Whether or not you are an Oprah fan or consumer of her programs and magazines is not really important here. She is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the US and has been so for many years. It is of note that someone who has built such an empire puts so much value on reflection and quiet time that she has made it a mandatory workplace policy.

We know of one coaching client that was so overwhelmed at the idea of any stillness, quiet or reflection that he wanted to flee the building just considering it. He finally agreed to set the alarm on his watch for 1 minute each hour to stop, breathe and just slow down. After committing to this practice he absolutely loved it and was able to create specific segments of time to gather his energy and pause.

So we ask you to consider incorporating “the pause” into your repertoire. Even just a couple of minutes per day has value. You might be surprised how changing your pace creates new avenues for creativity, intelligence and other positives to emerge.