One of the biggest ironies in professional life is that skills like functional expertise and hard work can help us advance in our early professional lives, but can also capture us to a career level. Leadership roles often require taking a step back, reassessing the situation and then moving forward with a strategic plan. As our work becomes more complex, thoughtful pauses and breaks become critical to ensuring continued future growth.
Leaning in front of release
When I was first promoted to a manager position with people reported to me, it was in recognition of my skills as a product manager. I was great at understanding what my customers, e-commerce merchants at the time, needed while keeping track of what was good for the bigger business. I developed this knowledge by relying and spending a lot of time with traders and observing their processes and practices.
When I was promoted, my area of responsibility expanded, and I no longer had much time to spend with the merchants. I remember feeling worried that I was losing touch with the ground reality and making decisions with second hand information I got from my new direct reports. I realized that my job had become to coach people reporting to me to take over my old functional role and develop trust in both directions so that we could perform excellently as a team. So I spent the time developing trust and communication, and it went well enough that I was promoted to manager less than a year after the first promotion.
In hindsight, challenging as it was, I had to learn to find the balance between leaning and letting go. Finding this balance required an occasional step back to reflect on the situation and move forward with a new or different plan.
What worked there will not work here
Aside from vertical growth in the role, sometimes a career change can also bring us face to face with the need to step back and reflect. In my book “In action / rethink: Rethinking the path to results“, I share the story of Mahesh Koturker who advanced up the ranks of the Indian Navy by becoming a practical leader. His sailors liked his style; he was often under deck, especially when faced with a crisis, instead of reading orders from above, as most officers did.
Upon his retirement from the Navy as commander, he joined a large corporation as a senior leader. Here, his practical style became an obstacle. His manager trained him that he needed to delegate more often. Kothurkar thought about this feedback and decided to make some changes. He began to be more considerate in making decisions and giving himself time to think instead of jumping into action. He also abandoned the habit of responding to emails immediately as a respondent.
“I have changed from a person who responds quickly to one who responds responsibly,” he told me during our interview.
Considerable breaks prevent nonlinear growth
Contrary to the idea of working long hours to be successful, visionary leaders like Jeff Bezos are known to spend several hours a day.hanging aroundOr give himself time to reflect and think. Ariana Huffington has been given a mandate to raise awareness of the importance of providing rest for our body and mind. She had a wake-up call due to an accident caused by exhaustion from her Working hours of 18 hours. It is interesting to note that her career has grown by leaps and bounds after she adopted the idea of giving her body and mind a rest.
When we take a break from reflective thinking, we give our brain time and space to process all the information we have gathered and connect the dots to come up with brilliant and creative ideas. Brain science Research Shows that the parts of the brain that light up when we stop focusing on something are meant to produce creative ideas. When our senses are focused, even if it is during excessive viewing of a show or easy reading, these parts of the brain become inactive.
When we use the same tactics of working long hours over and over again, the results we get are, at best, incremental. A contemplative pause, whether it is several hours (or more, as we shall see below) can help us make significant leaps forward, driving nonlinear growth.
The risks of taking prompt action
A few months ago I was called by a woman I have been with for years in deep frustration. She was a partner-level manager at the agency and felt unrecognized, rewarded with shortages and overload. As a millennial mother to two young children, the plague left her exhausted. She felt that her work, with its toxic work culture, was not worth the price she was paying, and she was about to quit. She wanted to go with the flow and see what life brings next.
Although I understood the struggles she was facing, I also felt that her decision to retire was not well thought out. I encouraged her to transparently share her experience with her leadership. Since she planned to quit anyway, this extra step would not cost her much. After doing so, her leadership asked her to go on a two-week vacation instead, while considering options to improve the situation for her. After returning from the break, she decided to stay and change the client she was working with, and that was the source of the toxic behavior.
A few months later, she left to join another company, and received a job offer with much higher compensation with a former manager. Having worked with this person in the past, my trainee knew they were aligned on values, culture and work ethic.
The value of a timeout
Although it has finally come down the break route; When she took a two-week break and then stayed, she gave herself time to figure out what she really wanted to do. She found a company and team that matched her value system. Since she was transparent with a former employer, she left on excellent terms, with an invitation to return if she wanted to, a rare offer in her industry.
While we are used to glorifying doing and taking a leap in the name of the brave, perhaps it is time to explore the alternative approach and not pay the price of false impudence. Lack of thought and pauses can lead us to far greater results than the pursuit of action without the attrition and fatigue that accompanies it.
This essay is derived from my book “IN / Action: Rethinking the Path to Results”, which will soon be available for purchase online and at select bookstores. You can read more about me Here And more about the book Here.
This guest post was written by Ginny Opel
Ginny is no stranger to opposing driving and innovative thinking. Uppal’s over 20 years of experience in driving transformative growth by challenging existing business norms is key to its success working with telecom, e-commerce and retail companies Fortune 500..
As a business and technology growth strategist, board consultant and thought leader, it continues to pave innovative paths for progress and success. She recently served as vice president of $ 12 billion in retail strategy in North America. Opal grew up in Mumbai and is a graduate of the University of Florida International and Harvard Business School. She has been practicing Vedic and Buddhist meditation and breathing work since 2008. Her other interests include hiking and horseback riding.