Step Back to Move Forward

A few months ago Kevin Cashman, a top coach for CEOs around the world, came out with a new book entitled The Pause Principle. I was thrilled to connect with such a brilliant mind who has single-handedly brought introspection and slow to C-suites around the globe.

While I didn’t get a chance to read his book, his message resonated with me so I decided to go straight to the source and ask Kevin a few questions about the importance of pause in our lives. Here’s what he said.

Power of Slow: Do you believe slow is actually faster? If yes, why?

Kevin Cashman: Slow may not technically be faster, but I believe it is more powerful. Our world today suffers from an epidemic of “hurry sickness.” Increasingly, we are going everywhere but being nowhere.  We are moving faster and faster, but for often without a clear purpose.  We trade speed for significance and performance for purpose, but at what costs?  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Busy?  The ants are busy.”  The question we need to ask is, “Busy for what purpose?”  The inspiration for writing The Pause Principle was to bring more authenticity and purpose to our leadership and our lives in order to balance our hyperactive, non-sustainable, busy-ness culture.

PoS: How can leaders benefit from pausing?

KC: Paradoxically, pause powers purposeful performance.  From observing, assessing, and coaching thousands of senior leaders around the globe for the last 30 years, one critical differentiating characteristic became apparent.  Those leaders who stepped back, who practiced intentional reflection, had better self-awareness, better listening and coaching skills, and tended to make better personal, interpersonal, and business breakthroughs.  In my work with senior leaders, I noticed that nearly all breakthroughs were preceded by some type of pause-through.  An assessment, some feedback, a new strategy, or a boundary-breaking innovation was all born after some type of pause.  Pause is the human mechanism for going deep to synthesize and emerging with insight and clarity.

PoS: In our speed-saturated culture, people expect things yesterday. What strategies can leaders stand by to offset our need for speed?

KC: Meet the demands of speed and action with about 80% of your time and energy.  Then consciously step back and embrace the most important, the most complex part of your job with about 20% of pauseful, deep reflective time and energy.  During this time, engage other colleagues collaboratively to break through with probing questions:  What do we see?  What might be possible if we did x, y, or z?  What if we did this or that?  What if we saw this through the customers’ eyes?  What if we considered the environmental and community impact?  Why are we doing this?  What might be possible if we saw our product and our organization with new eyes?  Demanding cultures do want results, and paradoxically, pause powers performance.  Pause powers results.  Use it to show how to transform the status quo and maybe, just maybe, your hyperactive, demanding culture will come to appreciate some new approaches to performance and innovation.  The Pause Principle is not about slowing down speed or demands; it is about consciously stepping back to find better ways to grow ourselves, others, and cultures of innovation.  Like an archer, the more forcefully we pull back the bow, the more dynamic and powerful the shot.  The purpose of pause is to step forward with greater impact, sustainability, resilience, creativity, and authenticity.


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