June 3, 2020

Practicing the Pause

Leadership Development

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One of the things I get to do is to work with a recovery program though my church called Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step recovery group known for using acrostics to assist in the absorption of the material they are presenting.

This approach speaks to me two reasons; 1) my seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Gjerstad, taught me to use acrostics to remember important information and 2) I am a firm believer that practice creates sustainable change.

I recently had the privilege to sit in on one of the group’s meetings via Zoom. Their conversation was focused on the pause that allows us to shift from reacting to responding. Out of the blue, one of them spouted, “You should make an acrostic for it, Connie!”

So, while they continued to talk, I did. I grabbed a sharpie and penned it on my notepad and held it up to the camera for them to see.

P – Postpone your reaction. Reacting indicates we are making a sudden, emotional reply. Remember that it is a rare occasion when a comeback infused with emotion serves us well. It would seem to be in the best interest of not only yourself but also for all others involved for you to postpone so can choose how you want to respond.

A – Ask God. Connecting with our higher power brings a sense of calm and balance. Making the effort to seek this connectedness creates a space between reacting and responding, a space for you to choose how you want to show up in this setting.

U – Use your tools. As a leader, you have developed a tool belt of various skills that allow you to be the best leader in any given situation. Give yourself the opportunity to choose the appropriate “tool” with expertise.

S – Seek the truth. In the moments when we are prone to react, curiosity can allow us the opportunity to obtain and weigh the facts. Some questions you might consider are: 1) What am I reacting to?  2) What is this really about?  An emotional reaction can cause us to easily make up a “truth” that comes out of our own stories if not challenged.

E – Every response has a ripple effect.  Our behavior will have an effect that creates ripples like a stone tossed in the water.  Consider how you want to influence how you are experienced by others and the message those ripples carry.

Practicing the pause serves the recovery world well and it was fun to whip up a quick acrostic while they talked.

But practicing the pause has many other applications, as well. Especially during chaotic and uncertain times. And especially for leaders during uncertain times.

Think about how you can integrate this into your own leadership. It can be a powerful tool you can access from your Leadership tool belt.

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About the author

Connie Smith-Hein, MS, ACC

Connie Hein has accumulated 25 years working in behavioral health focusing on executive leadership and team building. She has deep experience in psychology and counseling.

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