Know When to Hit the Pause Button
As a leader, you’re likely often in a rush. Whether it’s to plan a meeting, get through the day’s activities, communicate a message to your team, or achieve vital deadlines to support your goals and controls, time is always of the essence. And I get it—when it’s “go time,” it is go time. But there is also great value in learning how to put on the brakes, slow down, and act more purposefully and less reactively throughout your day. You can learn how to do this by practicing your pause. This means choosing to stop when faced with certain activities that may initially feel like they need immediate response or attention yet, in actuality, they do not. Disciplined Leaders learn the value of pacing themselves as part of an approach for being proactive as opposed to reactive. Adopt this habit, and you can support your leadership credibility and avoid making mistakes.
Here are three easy ways for putting more “pause” into your workday:
Sending emails. In our work, how often do we fire off emails without really thinking about what’s being said, how it’s being said, how professional the message is, whether we are truly communicating what’s intended, and how well the message supports our Vital Goals? It happens all the time. People rush to send out a message because they’re either in a hurry or reacting emotionally, both of which can have serious consequences. After all, once it’s sent, it is sent. So here’s a tip: You’ve got a draft folder, so use it. If you’re in doubt about whether it’s the right email to send or the right time to send it, use your willpower and put that email in that handy folder. Let it sit for a bit, then revisit it before you hit “send.” Make sure that you’re saying what you mean and meaning what you say—and that your professional communications align with your goals.
Talking in meetings. In MAP’s new book, “The Disciplined Leader,” we discuss the importance of listening in team meetings and within the context of other communication opportunities. Specifically, when you’re in a meeting and have the self-control to put your voice on “pause,” a number of things will happen. Team participation, engagement, and energy will improve. More ideas and solutions will be surfaced (by people other than you). Through what you hear and observe, you’ll likely learn things you didn’t know. And you’ll be better able to think about what you want to say before you do finally speak up, boosting your odds of saying something that will truly matter or have impact.
Making assumptions. When something has gone wrong or a particular challenge has cropped up, it’s easy to make assumptions about why it happened and who is to blame. But assumptions—and particularly decisions that are made and based upon such conjecture—can get us into trouble faster than anything…because they’re just that: assumptions. Disciplined Leaders learn the difference between assumptions and truth. When the latter is missing, they resist the urge to make hasty decisions and, instead, pause and go on a fact-finding mission first to get the information and truth for themselves.
What are some other scenarios in which it really pays to “pause”?