The Power of Stopping

As a busy leader, mum and daughter, with a myriad of deadlines, responsibilities and relationships, the most profound lesson I ever learned was to STOP.

As it happens, I was forced to stop by my body, which was obviously fed up of being treated like a workhorse. 

Now, some four years on, and after a lot of self discovery and learning, I only wish someone had taught me the power of stopping, at the start of my career, instead of me realising it towards the end.

For 20 years, as a business consultant, I’d been used to advising busy leaders to step back from working in the business to working on the business, but that isn’t stopping; that’s business planning, visioning, values, segmenting your markets, brain storming, SMART goals and so on.

Yesterday, a successful and busy client emailed me to say he had to make a member of staff redundant and he wondered if I could give him some advice. He was OK with the legalities of it but he wanted advice on how to handle it.

When I rang him as agreed to discuss this I asked him where he was and he advised that he was in his car, parked at a site he was about to visit.

“Right” I said.  “I’m going to ask you to try something new, are you up for it?”

Although he was hesitant, he agreed.  And so, he STOPPED.  All thoughts, actions, vision.  He closed his eyes as instructed and for 2 minutes thought of nothing but deep breathing and something he was very grateful for. Even a period as short as this will chemically shift what is happening in the brain, from our amygdala (fight or flight region) being activated, which disables logical thinking, to the frontal, reasoning part of our brain working.  Then I asked him 2 questions.

What would you want to hear if you were the person being made redundant?

How would you want to feel as you left the meeting?

And then we STOPPED again and I asked him to try and just let the answers come.  I didn’t want him to say anything for at least a couple of minutes.  He got his answers and they were damn good ones.

The work I do now is all about helping people to STOP and letting the answers come.  This happens on retreats, in online circles of trust, in peer groups and one to one. Yes, of course your experience is helping with the decision-making, but you are also connecting to something deeper, your feelings and maybe even, if we believe, your spirit or essence.  From board meetings to one on one difficult conversations with employees or loved ones, this STOPPING has a profound effect on how we respond to events and make decisions.  Rushing, which creates stress hormones, is bad for decision-making and very bad for our physical health.

I found out this the hard way, now I am helping as many people as I can, to allow themselves the time to be great leaders by STOPPING.

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