Medium 9781609945329

The Pause Principle

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We live and lead in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. But paradoxically, Kevin Cashman contends that leaders today must not merely act more quickly but pause more deeply. He details a catalytic process to guide you to step back in order to lead forward in three critical growth areas: personal leadership, development of others, and fostering of cultures of innovation. You and your organization will learn to move from management speed and transaction to leadership significance and transformation.

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Chapter One: Introducing The Pause Principle

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SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I SIGNED BOOKS at BookExpo America at McCormick Place in Chicago. It is a huge event with thousands of people and hundreds of authors. Every half-hour or so, thirty-two authors step out from behind a velvet curtain to sign books at an elevated podium. Attendees line up in long rows and patiently wait to receive their signed copies. While it had a bit too much formality for my taste, it was still a big deal for me.

Lining up behind the curtain with the other thirty-one authors, I noticed that to my right was George Stephanopoulos, chief political correspondent for ABC News, formerly White House communications director and senior advisor for policy and strategy during President Bill Clinton’s administration. Although George looked like a teenager, he was unfazed by the event—cool, calm, and collected, which was in complete contrast to my visible enthusiasm. When we took our spots at our elevated podiums, George’s line was long. It went on forever, wrapping around the corner beyond our sight. My line of people numbered a paltry seven. At first, I cycled through reactive embarrassment, insecurity, and disbelief. I thought, “Am I in the correct spot?” Then, I paused. Stepping back for a moment, I caught myself and reflected, “How do I best deal with this situation?” This short moment of reflection gave me renewed clarity and purpose. “This isn’t about me. It’s about those seven people, and I will graciously, generously give them my full attention.” Once I made that shift, I had a great time. By connecting deeply, I learned a little about each individual, then I signed each book. It became a wonderful experience.

 

Chapter Two: Pause to Grow Personal Leadership

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AN ANCIENT STORY FROM THE TALMUD illustrates our essential life journey. The story goes something like this: “Every blade of grass in all of creation has an angel standing over it, whispering three words of encouragement: Grow … Grow … Grow.” Regardless of our individual belief systems—religious, scientific, or humanistic—most of us can relate to this core impulse in life: Grow more, be more, contribute more, become more, serve more. This is the essence of leadership … the implicit drive to grow, contribute, and create enduring value. Helping ourselves and others to pause to align with this primal growth impulse is the purpose of The Pause Principle.

Organizations tend to rise and fall in proportion to the personal growth and personal decline of its leaders. As the leader grows, so the enterprise goes. Personal leadership, growing as a whole person to grow as a whole leader, is fundamental to enduring leadership effectiveness and is essential to enduring organizational performance. We see this in our leadership development work, and research bears it out. “Self-awareness combined with interpersonal skills are convincing indicators of driving results and managing talent.” One study showed:

 

Chapter Three: Pause to Grow Others

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EARLY IN MY EXECUTIVE COACHING CAREER, I had the good fortune to advise some of Vince Lombardi’s Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. This legendary team is recognized by many as one of the greatest American football teams in history. Although the former players I was coaching had transitioned to business careers, Lombardi’s influence was still very present in their lives and in their leadership.

I had always viewed Lombardi as the iconic, hard-driving, hard-nosed football coach. However, I did not know the person behind the coach, the person who was passionate about growing each team member in a highly intimate and personal way. On separate occasions, each of the former players surprised me with similar sentiment about Lombardi: “I have never been so loved by someone outside my family. We all knew he would do anything for us . . . anything. We would go through walls for this man.” Coach Lombardi earned the right to drive the talent of his players to the limit because his intense drive was balanced by his equally intense caring. He awakened in his players the respect, drive, and caring he held within himself. When people know that a leader cares, know that a leader is in it for them, great things are possible.

 

Chapter Four: Pause to Grow Cultures of Innovation

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GREAT THINKERS, SCIENTISTS, ARTISTS, AND LEADERS move the world forward by stepping back; the higher the quality of pause, the greater the creative possibility. Albert Einstein, like other exceptional innovators, practiced deep reflection to probe the latent patterns of life. His assistant, Banesh Hoffman, described his profound way of penetrating reality:

His powers of focus had a great intensity and depth. When struggling with a recalcitrant problem, he was haunted as if hunting animal prey. Often, when he faced a seemingly insolvable difficulty, he crossed the room with long strides, while a finger was wrapped in a strand of long gray hair. A look, dreaming and distant had a distinct inward presence. There was no appearance of concentration, no frowning, only a quiet, intimate communion. Einstein suddenly stopped. He had found the solution! Sometimes the solution was so simple we felt like slapping our faces! The magic had worked invisible in its depth.

Einstein blended his incredible intelligence and expertise with deep pause to comprehend an entirely new way to see the deeper realities of our existence. Walter Isaacson, author of the biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe, would have us remember that “what made Einstein special was his impertinence, his nonconformity, and his distaste for dogma.” He tells us that it was his great intellect, body of knowledge, tenacious focus, as well as his curiosity, observance, rebelliousness, skepticism, and his willingness to wrestle with a paradox for a long time, that led him from a “thought experiment” at age sixteen to two unconnected postulates, and eventually, to the theory of relativity. Although it came to him in a classic Eureka! moment, it was the culmination of ten years of persistent study combined with reflection. Isaacson, who was Steve Jobs’s chosen biographer, has noted that Jobs and Einstein shared some common characteristics. They were both intense, creative thinkers, nonconformists, who refused to be “confined by accepted dogmas of the day.” Because they were willing to discard dogmatic ideas, they were able to think differently. Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Neither Einstein nor Jobs could have imagined their innovations without their body of knowledge and experiences, but their daring and what Isaacson called Einstein’s “impertinence” gave them the boldness to keep driving toward new possibilities.

 

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