The power of the pause
Doing very little for greater rewards sounds easy, but so many of us fall short when it comes to capitalising on the power of the pause.
I first became aware of the power of pausing when studying English – thanks to Harold Pinter; then when acting – thanks to Samuel Beckett. Pauses in speech and pauses in action can have profound impact. Later at Sandhurst our Commandant, General Arthur Denaro, once paraded us after a particularly gruelling exercise and delivered the following lines, with monumental pauses between each:
“For those of you have done well
And you know who you are
For those of you have not done so well
And you know who you are
Not so well done”
We were all left feeling slightly confused (not having had more than a few short bursts of sleep over the previous 100 hours didn’t help) but were inspired to dig deeper in a desire to better ourselves and impress this colossus of a soldier. At Sandhurst too, we learnt the role of the leader to be able to pause the action, weigh up the options, then act decisively. In the words of Rudyard Kipling:
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs….”
Fast forwarding in my life to my expertise in leadership consultancy and there are two more gurus who have stood out for me – one for managing emotional moments; the other for strategic thinking. Both have had an extremely postitive impact on my leadership behaviours and the ensuing results. Before any of you who know me best rush to call / e-mail – I know already, I am still working on my consistency of application ;)
First up is Daniel Goleman famous for bringing the concept of ‘emotional intelligence’ to the fore of leadership thinking. I am indebted to him for helping me gain a better of understanding of what is going on physiologically when I am becoming annoyed, and some strategies for quenching rather then feeding the fire. The strategies include slowing the action, using empathy to reframe and understand others’ intentions; and even to remove myself from the action completely so my head can clear.
And the second is Jim Collins, perhaps most famous for his book ‘Good to great’ which introduced us all to the concept of level 5 leadership where humility co-exists with resolve to transform organisations. My favourite idea of his comes from a later book (Great by choice) where he talks about having a ‘dual lens capability’ so you can both zoom in to the detail, and zoom out to the bigger picture. For me this exists on a scale from the ability to zoom out in the moment (a mini pause) to get our bearings and regroup, through to planned off-site events (a massive pause) to reconnect with our purpose, progress and direction.
So go on – take a moment to choose to take more moments and see what it gets for you and those around you.
Never underestimate the power of the pause!