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The Pause That Refreshes

How does a top 10 all-time ad slogan from 1929 fit with Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There? Both suggest the key to continuing on for people on the go (or grow) is to slow down and pause.  Coke wants us to pause and drink; Goldsmith suggests we pause and think!

Goldsmith, a preeminent executive coach and thought leader, suggests 20 habits most successful people need to break in order to move to the highest level of potential. In reading through the list, what struck me was the number of habits that we unconsciously exhibit. While a few are physical, most are verbal. Examples include:

  1. Winning too much

  2. Adding too much value

  3. Passing  judgment

  4. Making destructive comments

  5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”

  6. Telling the world how smart we are

  7. Not listening

You will have to read the book for the others, and I promise you will thank me.

What struck me is how many times we sabotage ourselves with our own statements. Like a mule heading for the barn, we mindlessly head to our house of regret and open the door with our tongue. The quick wit and sharp analytical skills that got you noticed and promoted can sabotage your leadership potential. They surface in sarcastic replies to a subordinate or colleague in a meeting, or in pointing out the problem with a solution developed by a new member of your team.  Neither build emotional connections with others, a critical skill for successfully managing people. Goldsmith’s observations, developed over 20 years of coaching, sure hit home with me.

The key to changing those behaviors is sometimes not to try to change them head on. I am going to listen more is a typical resolution of someone known for interrupting others with his or her response. Rather than trying to “will” yourself into an 180◦ behavior change, why not just pause and try to not interrupt. Just stopping what you are doing is hard enough. If you think not, here’s a Goldsmith test:

Every time you respond with a sarcastic remark or respond with a “no,” “but,” or “however”, put $10 in a jar. Most of us would fill the jar and empty our accounts before we got control of our tongues.  Once you have control, you can then move to step two, changing your response.

The pause I am working on requires that I pause and ask some basic questions before responding. Goldsmith suggests several good ones that work for me:

  1. Is my response in the best interest of the customer?

  2. Is my response helpful to my company?

  3. Is my response helpful to the person I am talking to?

  4. Is my response helpful to the person I am talking about?

I tried these at my family Christmas gathering and found they helped for the first two people I engaged in conversation. Within an hour I found myself speaking sarcastically to my nephew when he shanked a drive in a friendly game against his step brother. The good news is I caught it. And even if I am a not yet a full time encourager, I know I can stop being a sarcastic cheerleader.

The pause that refreshes ad poster will be stuck on my mirror in 2014. And if I can pause my tongue a few more times, 2014 will be a refreshing year of progress.

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