I first learned the power of pausing when I was in college – although I didn’t recognize it as a “power pose” at the time. In fact, the concept of a power pose did not exist in the early 80s. Social psychologist and Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy was not yet a teenager and it would be three decades before she would publish her ground-breaking research on power posing.
Here is what I discovered in college and have implemented since then in both my personal and professional life. I found that if I was stressed about an upcoming test and didn’t see any possible way I could study enough to do well on the test, the best thing I could do was go to the movies or take a break and socialize with friends.
I know it seems counter intuitive and certainly not something a parent is likely to tell their college aged child (or a boss is likely to tell an employee facing a tight deadline). Yet it worked. And now over 30 years later, neuroscience is beginning to shed light on why it works.
When we are stressed and operating at a break-neck pace, we tend to be operating from our primitive brain or the amygdala. This part of our brain does not have the ability problem solve, create or innovate. By pausing we give our bodies the ability to reduce the presence of the stress hormone cortisol and can move to operating from our pre-frontal cortex or executive brain. Obviously this is a simplified explanation and only part of a complex web of activities that takes place when we pause. The bottom line though is that pausing allows us to move from using our primitive brain to using our executive brain – from being reactive to being proactive.
What does a power pause look like? It can take many forms actually. On a day-to-day basis it might be taking “breathe breaks” throughout the day – something you can do in the midst of your busy schedule in private or even in a meeting without anyone even realizing you are taking a break. Simply take two or three slower, deeper breaths than your normal breathing pattern – it doesn’t have to be obvious. Get in the habit of doing this before you speak – even in one-on-one situations – and you will be a much more effective communicator. Do it before you engage in a conversation that requires you to listen and you will be able to listen better.
Take a power pause at the end of meetings to summarize decisions and get overt commitment to those decisions. This requires slowing down and recapping rather than rushing out the door. In fact, the effectiveness of your meetings will be in large part determined by whether or not you can take a power pause and slow things down in those last 10 minutes.
One of the biggest challenges leaders tell me they are facing is too much to do – too many priorities. I encourage them to take a power pause – also known as a leadership team retreat or quarterly offsite. If you want to be effective as a leadership team you must take time together to plan, problem solve, create and innovate. That means weekly meetings and at least one day a quarter away from the office – not simply going to the spa, playing golf or taking a cocktail mixology class – but engaging in dialogue and debate to develop real solutions to real-world, real-time problems.
In a world where constantly trying to drink from a firehose has almost become an addiction and is too often viewed as a badge of honor, I challenge you to turn down the pressure and try taking a power pause. You might find it is even more addictive than trying to drink from a firehose – and a whole lot more effective.
Would you like to explore a leadership team retreat or quarterly offsite so you and your team can take a power pause and develop real solutions to real-world, real-time problems?
Take the next step:
I would welcome the opportunity to talk with you and see if our Leadership Team Development Program might be a fit for you and your team. Call me at 972-701-9311 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org today. I look forward to chatting with you.
Using leadership team retreats, executive & business coaching, and our five-point performance optimization system, Action-Strategies-By-Design helps organizations of all sizes create:
- A clear vision & strategy for achieving goals
- High functioning teams with aligned priorities
- An engaged culture for improved productivity
For more information or to explore what working together might look like, call Julie Chance at 972-701-9311, or email email@example.com.
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