communication

Stop Pretending That You Can’t Give Candid Feedback

We’ve all heard the famous bromide that “honesty is the best policy.” But when it comes to performance feedback, honesty often falls by the wayside. Many managers hide behind performance management checklists or water down their feedback with generalizations. And on the other side of the equation, employees tend to position themselves in the most favorable light possible in their self-assessments, and avoid giving constructive feedback to the boss, even when it’s requested. The result is a lack of candid dialogue between boss and subordinate — which not only prevents the organization from improving, but also stymies individual development.

ignore-copy1.png

The odd thing about this phenomenon is that everyone knows that performance feedback should be more candid. There are hundreds of articles about the value of candid assessments and most supervisory and management courses include some variation on how to have “courageous” conversations (corporate-speak for “honest”). There also are some organizations, such as GE and (the new) Ford under Alan Mulally, that insist upon it.

Research also shows that employees are far more engaged when they receive honest feedback; and that leaders who rate highest in managerial effectiveness are those who most actively seek feedback from others. Yet performance feedback continues to look like the Emperor’s New Clothes, where everyone pretends that it’s different than it is.

The reality is that candid, two-way dialogues are intensely uncomfortable and cause anxiety on both sides of the table. The boss, for example, often worries that too much candor might be hurtful or damaging. As one senior manager said to me, “If I tell this person what I really think, it could destabilize her and make it difficult for her to do her job.” At the same time, the boss may also want to be liked by the subordinate and doesn’t want the relationship to deteriorate, especially if they have to work side-by-side. So it’s easier to pull punches than to say something that might damage the relationship.

On the other side of the ledger, subordinates worry that negative feedback will adversely affect their job continuation, career prospects, or earning power — so they may appear defensive or anxious, which makes it even harder to have an honest conversation. And if the manager asks for feedback, many subordinates will try to say nice things as a way of currying favor, or signaling a quid-pro-quo arrangement of “I’ll give you positive feedback if you give me the same.”

The net result of all this angst and (largely unconscious) anxiety is a stilted, pro-forma, ritualistic, and not very productive pattern of dialogue about performance. It’s a pattern that adds little value to the organization or to managers and employees.

Unfortunately, given the powerful nature of the underlying psychological forces, it is difficult to break this pattern. Most people believe Jack Nicholson’s line from the movie, “A Few Good Men,” when he shouted: “You can’t handle the truth!” That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do. On the contrary, given the enormous value that more honest feedback can produce, here are three suggestions that might be worth exploring:

Acknowledge and discuss the difficulty of honest performance feedback. Whether you are the boss or subordinate, initiate conversation about the issue, the underlying psychology, and the value of getting it right. Use this blog post or other articles like it as a way to get the discussion started. The more you can build awareness of the dynamic, the better your chances of dealing with it.
Separate developmental feedback from job-security issues such as compensation and promotion. The easiest way to do this is to conduct these discussions at different times (even if your corporate process wants you to do them together). Doing this allows you to focus the conversation on how you and your subordinate can better accomplish key goals and projects — so the discussion is more work-related than “personal.” Making this explicit division removes some of the emotion from performance assessment and might free you up to be more candid.
Like any good skill, you need to practice. So don’t wait until the formal process kicks in and you’re under the gun to fill out forms and have a high-anxiety performance review. Instead, engage your people (or your boss) in a series of mini-discussions about how things are going and what can be done differently. The more frequently you have these conversations, the more comfortable they will become. Honest performance feedback is not easy. But learning how to do it well can make a huge difference both for you and for your organization.

Reprinted From HBR.org

The Power of Listening

"Every employee needs to be noticed. Sure, you're busy,
but taking the time for a conversation can pay off."

conversation-1940x900_31263.jpg

By Vanessa Merit Nornberg

As business owners, we always have too little time and too many tasks on our to-do list. As we prioritize all of those tasks, we sometimes lose sight of the very important need to notice how our employees

 are doing and the specific ways in which they are working. While this may seem to be a non-urgent issue that can get shuffled down the list in lieu of a more pressing fire to put out, it is actually very crucial to keeping the business running smoothly. Here is what I learned from conversations with my staff over the past few weeks.

Sometimes you just need to be a sounding board. I recently stopped by a salesperson’s desk because I heard her sighing in frustration as I passed by. When I asked what was happening, she began to complain about a problem she had encountered. Immediately, I began to listen as a business owner and manager. I quickly asked some questions about the solutions she had tried and started suggesting additional ways to address the issue. To my surprise, the staff member in question looked annoyed rather than receptive to my comments. Rather than be put off by her attitude, I asked why she seemed unhappy with the solutions I offered. She told me that she did not need solutions. She had just wanted me to understand what she was up against and provide her with a few words of empathy.

This reminder to listen without always trying to fix things was valuable to me. Smart people are usually able to work out their own solutions, but they still need a sounding board from time to time, so they can vent a little and perform their own self-check before re-finding the path to productivity.

A closer look is always worth the time. A new recruit seemed to be doing well at first, but overhearing one of her calls recently set off alarm bells for me. The call ended too quickly and as I stopped what I was doing and began listening to more calls, I realized she was missing some important tools in helping our customers the best she could. I made time to ask her about her calls, and in the process, discovered that she had some organizational issues that we could easily address as well as some sales questions she had been timid about asking. Together we re-organized her call calendar, created a weekly contact plan, and re-visited some of the training lessons with additional examples so she felt confident about her conversations with customers.

Then I began checking in with her for five minutes each morning to discuss her roadmap for the day. I also allocated 30 minutes during each afternoon to hear her calls and help her tweak her dialogue as it unfolded. She saw the results in her sales immediately, and because I was directly interacting with her regularly, she added extra initiatives to accelerate her progress even further. My noticing her struggle gave her the chance to voice her weaknesses without making her feel stupid and gave way to great improvements in a short period of time.

Even rock stars require encouragement. My best employees are self-motivated, require little supervision, and move the company forward much like I do, basing their decisions on a combination of intuition and analysis with a healthy dose of willpower. Because I know they are highly operational without any intervention from me, if I don’t get time to catch-up with them in a given week, I don’t worry too much. When my highest earner didn’t seem to be making some of the secondary goals we had set for her recently, I began to check in more regularly again. As I did, I realized that there was a marked difference in both her focus and work output.

Even though she can do her job smashingly without my guidance, showing her I was paying attention gave her a new drive to push the bar higher. Merchandising got even better, samples went out more frequently and her problem-solving got more creative. All of which made me understand that checking in proactively, and not just when something was amiss, was vital for the strongest as well as the weaker players on my team.

The bottom line is this: Noticing needs to happen all the time, not just when we decide we have the time.

4 Surprisingly Effective Things to Say

By Marla Tabaka via @inc

As the boss, you have to know it all and always be in the right. Wrong. Try these simple, yet powerful words to build trust and lead with integrity.

sorry-pano_25632.jpg

We all make mistakes, say the wrong things, and misjudge a situation from time to time. But not everyone will admit their errors, especially in a competitive environment.

Perhaps legendary leadership author and pastor John C. Maxwell said it best: "A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them."

I learned that very important lesson early in my career at NBC-TV.  As the assistant to the vice president of sales I reported to an amazing mentor who relied heavily on my judgment and diligence.  But on one occasion I had a terrible lapse in common sense and fell short of her expectations. I really screwed up.

Naturally, my boss was livid. She immediately called me on the carpet for my error in judgment. My defenses reared up; my fight or flight instinct screamed, "Fight to survive!" Thankfully, in a moment of sanity I took a more sensible approach. Here's what I said.

 I was wrong. I'm sorry. I know that I still have a lot to learn. Please let me fix it.

Apparently, this reply from a young, ambitious employee was far from expected. I will never forget the series of internal responses reflected in my boss's eyes:  surprise, confusion, acceptance, and something that may have been admiration. Whew! In that moment I knew I'd done exactly the right thing.

This experience taught me something I've carried with me through the years: a little honesty and humility go a long way in life.  It enriches relationships, prevents unnecessary confrontation, saves time, and builds trust. What could have destroyed my career instead earned the trust of a powerful and successful woman and opened the door to growth, learning, and many promotions over the years.

The next time your defenses are up you may find instant relief in one or more of these surprisingly effective, yet simple statements. Give it a try, the only thing you have to lose is a little ego!

I'm sorry.

A short and sweet apology lowers the levels of resistance and anger in the room. Diffuse the situation with these simple words. The conversation will become less stressful and a solution to your problem or challenge is more likely to surface.

I was wrong.

Admitting your mistake is cleansing. No need to defend yourself, no need to create a litany of excuses. How freeing! Admit it and correct it. It's that simple!

I need help.

Go ahead. Accept that you don't know it all. A great entrepreneur surrounds herself with people who know more than she does. Reach out to your army of supporters and save yourself a lot of frustration and time.

I don't know.

Do you think you have to have all the answers? Well, you're wrong. Even "experts" don't know it all.  Any true expert will tell you is that no one is expected to have all the answers. Let's face it, if we knew everything life would be boring! This is an opportunity learn and grow; something every entrepreneur loves to do!

Marla Tabaka is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka

Handwritten Notes Are a Rare Commodity. They're Also More Important Than Ever.

by John Coleman via @harvardbiz

20130408_3.jpg

When I was a college student interning in Washington, D.C., a senior manager, Bridgett, made a habit of treating each intern to lunch over the summer. When my turn rolled around, it was no surprise that Bridgett proved an adept conversationalist and an excellent host.

Several weeks after I'd returned to college, however, I was surprised to find an envelope from Bridgett in my mailbox. It contained a handwritten note and a copy of Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners, a book she'd recommended over lunch. I barely knew Bridgett, but her note said that I'd helped her organization and that she appreciated it and wished me luck. It was a gesture that stayed with me and forever led me to view Bridgett as a thoughtful person.

Personal handwritten notes grow rarer by the day. According to the U.S. Postal Service's annual survey, the average home only received a personal letter once every seven weeks in 2010, down from once every two weeks in 1987. And The Wall Street Journal recently lamented the "lost art of the handwritten note." Some might claim that in a wired world — where emails, tweets, and text messages are more accessible than handwritten notes — this is the natural evolution of communication. Who has time for stamps, stationery, and "manual" spell-check, after all? But I think it's premature to write off the importance of handwritten notes. They remain impactful and unique in several ways.

For one, handwritten notes mean more because they cost more. Emails, tweets, texts, or Facebook messages are essentially costless. They're easy to write and free to send, and you and I produce hundreds of them every day. A recent study indicated the average corporate email account sent orreceived more than 100 emails per day (PDF), and Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 nowsend or receive nearly 100 texts per day.

These electronic communications are rarely notable. But handwritten notes are unusual. They take minutes (or hours) to draft, each word carefully chosen with no "undo" or "autocorrect" to fall back on. Drafting one involves selecting stationery, paying for stamps, and visiting a mailbox. They indicate investment, and that very costliness indicates value. If, as the U.S. Postal Service notes, we only receive a handwritten letter once every two months, each of those letters likely means more to us than the "cheaper" communication we receive each day.

That conveyance of value is amplified by the fact that personal messages are often notes of gratitude, civility, and appreciation that reach beyond the conventional thank-you. Robert Cialdini, in his classic work Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, profiled legendary car salesman Joe Girard. Perhaps the most successful salesman of his generation, Joe would send a handwritten message to all his clients once a month with simple messages printed inside like, "I like you." Joe believed these little notes were one of the reasons his clients stayed so loyal to him. Because handwritten notes are so painstakingly slow — to draft, to send, to assure delivery — they're often a poor way to ask for things. Instead, they're more frequently used to remind others that you value your relationship.

While saying "thank you" is important, the beauty of a well-crafted handwritten note is that it can show deeper investment and appreciation than a simple thank-you can. It can follow up on a conversation, remind someone they're not forgotten, raise new issues, or even include a gift, like Bridgett's, that carries its own meaning. And in a world where so much communication is merely utilitarian, these simple acts of investment, remembrance, gratitude, and appreciation can show the people who matter to your life and business that they are important to you.

As an added bonus, studies show that those who express gratitude also benefit by experiencing better health and sleep, less anxiety, and more life satisfaction. They benefit giver and receiver alike.

Finally, handwritten notes have permanence. How many of us have our old high school yearbooks in a closet somewhere? How many keep shoe boxes with old letters or short notes from former colleagues or friends? The last time I moved, I came across several boxes of correspondence I'd had over the years. Taking the time to read through some of them, I found the memories of my old friends and colleagues, and my gratitude for them was reinvigorated. Email is "permanent" in its own way; our electronic messages are easy to keep and search in huge volumes. But they aren't tangible and enduring in the same way those old notes are. We don't print emails and display them on our desks, refrigerators, and mantles they way we do with letters and notes from friends. The physical notes are more memorable.

It may seem nostalgic, but I still believe there's room for the handwritten note in personal and professional communication. They cost something, mean something, and have permanence in a way emails and text messages don't. They let the people in our lives know we appreciate them enough to do something as archaic as pausing for 15 minutes to put pen to paper in an attempt to connect and sustain a relationship with them. I still remember that note from Bridgett — and many others I've received over the years — and perhaps in writing personal notes to our friends and colleagues, we can reach out to others in a way that creates a lasting, positive connection.

The Delicate Art of Giving Feedback

by Robert C. Pozen
via Harvard Business Review

To be an effective manager, you need to be skilled at giving out both praise and criticism. While praise is easy to give, it is far more challenging and unpleasant to criticize your employees. Yet the practice of management requires you to occasionally show employees where they need to improve. Thus, it is vital for managers to learn how and when to give negative feedback.

The first thing to realize is that people generally respond more strongly to negative events than positive ones. In other words, we are usually more upset about losing $100 than we are happy about winning $100. In fact, in an influential book, John Gottman (now a Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington) suggested that positive interactions must outnumber negative interactions by at least five to one in order for a marriage to succeed.

This observation is also true in the workplace, as Professor Andrew Miner (then of the University of Minnesota) and colleagues discovered in a study published in 2005. They recorded employees' moods several times each day and, each time, asked them if any events (such as a positive interaction with a co-worker) had occurred within the past few hours.

Their results showed that employees reacted to a negative interaction with their boss six times more strongly than they reacted to a positive interaction with their boss. This suggests that negative feedback can have significant adverse effects on an employee's well-being — and, presumably, their productivity.

What does this observation mean for managers? Put simply, managers need to be cautious before criticizing employees.

To start with, you should avoid inadvertently criticizing any of your employees. For instance, if an employee writes a first draft of a written document, some managers might want to suggest some minor revisions even if the draft was generally good. In these situations, managers should clearly communicate that their revisions are merely suggestions coming from a second pair of eyes — and that they aren't criticizing their employee's performance.

More generally, managers need to weigh the tradeoffs involved in making negative feedback. If you criticize your employees, you will likely provide some corrective information, but you will also put your employee in a bad mood. If an error is so inconsequential that the corrective value of criticism is low, it might make sense for you to keep that feedback to yourself.

Of course, there are situations when a manager must provide negative feedback. On these occasions, don't lose sight of your purpose for offering that feedback: to improve the employee's performance going forward. As much as you might want to excoriate your employee for what you believe is a spectacularly awful performance, your business gains nothing from it.

In fact, shaming your employee is likely to have substantial negative effects on your business. Inresearch reported in HBR, Christine Porath and Christine Pearson found that many employees considered themselves to be on the receiving end of workplace incivility, such as overly harsh criticism from their boss. According to their research, nearly half of these employees decide to intentionally decrease their productivity.

Instead, in order to obtain the desired corrective effects of negative feedback, you should take steps to soften the emotional blow. You want your employees to focus on the message that you're trying to convey, rather than any intense negative emotions.

At a bare minimum, make sure to deliver your criticism in private. There's nothing more humiliating than being criticized in front of your co-workers. And it is critical to keep your tone collaborative. Make clear that your employee still has your support and your respect.

One strategy for providing feedback is to start by literally saying, "Let me provide you with some feedback." That statement lets the employee prepare emotionally for what you're about to say; in my experience, it also seems to activate the calm, rational part of the employee's brain rather than the defensive, emotional part.

Negative feedback is a key tool in the effective manager's kit. But you must use it wisely and carefully, or else they will do more harm than good. Focus on potential future improvements, instead of dwelling on past errors. And think twice whether an error truly requires negative feedback: criticism can have an unexpectedly large impact on an employee's happiness and productivity.

And this approach should be generally reversed when it comes to praise. Unlike criticism,managers should bestow their employees with praise generously, publicly, and at every opportunity — especially at the culmination of projects. While most bosses seem to think that they dole out praise by the dozen, I rarely meet an employee who feels that the boss sufficiently values his or her achievements. So, as often as possible, tell your employees how much you appreciate their commitment and hard work.

7 Keys To Crystal Clear Communication

By Lee J. Colan, Ph.D

Question: What’s the one thing we do more than anything else, but we also do it less effectively than anything else?

Answer: Communicate.

Deloitte & Touche conducted a study that found communication was the best predictor of employee commitment. And commitment results in discretionary effort that drives results. So, to get better results, here are seven keys to crystal clear communication:

communication_meeting.png

1. Relevance

There are lots of things to communicate about. To ensure you are talking about what is most relevant to your team, answer these four questions for them:

  • Where are we going? (Strategy)
  • What are we doing to get there? (Plans)
  • What can I do to contribute? (Roles)
  • What is in it for me? (Rewards)

Ensure that you are answering these questions before communicating about other topics. When these questions are not answered people tend to fill in the blanks with their own assumptions, and their assumptions are typically worse than reality.

2. Consistency

The same messages should come from your various communication channels and from all levels of leaders. Your team will sniff out inconsistency like a cat sniffing out a mouse. Provide your leaders speaking points and visual aids about new projects, organizational changes, company values and strategic direction to ensure consistency. Things will change, and that’s okay. Just ensure that everyone’s messages also change. If not, you will start to violate the third key.

3. Transparency

It can also be challenging to decide what to communicate to our teams and what to withhold. It’s easy to say (usually to ourselves), “They don’t really need to know all that” or “My team won’t really understand” or “I don’t think they can handle that news right now.”

Remember this: Leaders who underestimate the intelligence of their employees generally overestimate their own. To the extent you can responsibly share information about your business (unless SEC regulations restrict you in certain situations) you build leadership credibility and a sense of ownership to make a difference.

4. Multi-Channel

Your communication channels might include: memo/email, video, Twitter, chat groups, newsletter, company Facebook page, town hall chats, training sessions, team celebrations, bulletin boards, running banners on PCs, video conferences, etc.  Don’t go crazy adding channels just to add them. Select those that are perceived as most reliable. Keep it simple and stick with it!

Remember, the message is in the medium. So, if you are announcing an important new business unit, sending an email might be perceived as matter-of-fact and that the new business unit is not critical to the business. Alternatively, company-wide or departmental meetings with a presentation and opportunity for asking questions suggest to employees that the time, effort and preparation to hold these meetings is related to the importance of this new business unit.

5. Real-Time

Speed rules in today’s business. It is often the only competitive advantage that smaller businesses have over the 800-pound gorillas. So real-time updates, feedback and dialog are key. This also applies to the not so fun stuff. Don’t sweep the tough performance discussions under the rug. The issue won’t go away with time; it will only rear its head in uglier ways. Communicate in real-time — in good times and in bad.

6. Multi-Directional

Communicate downward, upward and horizontally. This means that listening is just as important as talking, if not more so. Asking questions is the most underutilized, yet most powerful, leadership tool. Excellent leaders listen at least 50 percent of the time. After we listen to peers and employees,  we can more effectively communicate a message or idea that is more likely to be well-received.

7. Informality

In addition to scheduling formal meetings and communiques, budget five or ten extra minutes before a meeting to zig-zag your way to meetings, the restroom or lunch. Pop in on your team and ask them how you can help them, what their biggest frustrations are, what big idea they would like to work on, etc. These informal dialogs often yield rich insights.

Joseph Pulitzer (you know, the Pulitzer Prize guy) knew a few things about effective communication, and he reflected several of the seven keys when he said, “Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearlyso they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by it.”

Apply the seven keys and you will not only communicate with crystal clarity, you will also more fully engage your team and drive better performance.

Bio: Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. is a leadership advisor. He co-founded The L Group, Inc. in 1999 to equip leaders to execute their plans and engage their teams. Colan has authored 12 books. His soon-to-be-released book, 
Stick with It: Mastering the Art of Adherence 


10 Reasons to Pick Up the Phone Now

By Kevin Daum via @inc

Today fewer people get on the phone, preferring to text, chat, and e-mail. Here are 10 scenarios where a live voice is still the best option.

call-pano_24614.jpg

I've noticed recently that the Millennial generation's trend of phone avoidance is quickly spreading to people of all ages. It started with smartphones. Texting replaced leaving voicemails and whole conversations now take place with our thumbs. Calling someone has now become low on the communication priority list and even frequently disparaged.

Certainly written communication has its advantages.

  • You can get your message out whether or not the other person is available.
  • You can respond without concern for time zones or sleep patterns.
  • You don't have to waste time with unwanted chatty gossip.

But the phone has benefits that text and e-mail will never overcome. It's still an important tool for business etiquette and should be considered equally in today's communication environment. Here are 10 scenarios where a phone call does the job best.

1. When You Need Immediate Response

The problem with text or e-mail is you never know when someone will get back to you. You like to think the other person is sitting there waiting for your message, but it's not always true. These days when someone sees your name on the ringing phone, they know you are making an extra effort to speak to them. Of course if they are truly busy, in a meeting, sleeping, or hiding from you, the caller ID will tip them off and you go to voicemail, which they rarely check anyway. At least now you can express yourself with heartfelt emotion.

2. When You Have Complexity with Multiple People

My wife Van was recently coordinating an overseas engagement for me and there were six different people in multiple time zones involved in the logistics. After five cryptic e-mail conversations that created more confusion, she was literally screaming at the computer. Finally I suggested a conference call. In 30 minutes, all questions were answered, everyone was aligned, and Van went from frustrated to relieved. She is now a newly recruited phone advocate.

3. When You Don't Want a Written Record Due to Sensitivity

You never know who will see an e-mail or a text. True, phone calls can be recorded...but not legally in most states without prior notification or a judge's order. Unless you are absolutely comfortable with your message getting into anyone's hands, best to use the phone for conversations that require discretion.

4. When the Emotional Tone is Ambiguous, But Shouldn't Be

Sometimes a smiley face is not enough to convey real emotion. Emoticons help broadly frame emotional context, but when people's feelings are at stake it's best to let them hear exactly where you are coming from. Otherwise they will naturally assume the worst.

5. When There is Consistent Confusion

Most people don't like to write long e-mails and most don't like to read them. So when there are lots of details that create confusion, phone calls work efficiently to bring clarity. First of all, you can speak about 150 words per minute, and most people don't type that fast. Second, questions can be answered in context so you don't end up with an endless trail of back and forth question and answers.

6. When There is Bad News

This should be obvious, but sadly many people will take a cowardly approach to sharing difficult news. Don't be one of those callous people. Make it about the other person and not you. Humanize the situation with empathy they can hear.

7. When There is Very Important News

Good or bad, if there is significance to information, the receiver needs to understand the importance beyond a double exclamation point. Most likely they will have immediate questions and you should be ready to provide context to prevent unwanted conclusions.

8. When Scheduling is Difficult

After going back and forth multiple times with a colleague's assistant trying to find an available date and time, I finally just called her. Now I didn't have to worry that the time slot would be filled by the time she read my e-mail. We just spoke with calendars in hand and completed in five minutes what had exasperated us over three days. Later that day I watched one of my foodie friends spend 20 frustrated minutes using Open Table and finally suggested he simply call the restaurant. In three minutes he had a reservation and a slightly embarrassed smile.

9. When There is a Hint of Anger, Offense, or Conflict in the Exchange

Written messages can often be taken the wrong way. If you see a message that suggests any kind of problem, don't let it fester--or worse try and repair it--with more unemotional communication. Pick up the phone and resolve the issue before it spirals out of control.

10.  When a Personal Touch Will Benefit

Anytime you want to connect emotionally with someone and face-to-face is not possible, use the phone. Let them hear the care in your voice and the appreciation in your heart.

The Power of “The Pause”

By 

powerofpauseCulturally, 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 recent 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.