Learning to Grow Your Business…By Pausing

Effective leadership empowers your team to achieve the amazing. Leadership is a critical ingredient in transforming organizations into powerful engines of growth. 

With this in mind, StartupNation had the pleasure of interviewing best-selling author Kevin Cashman about his most recent book, The Pause Principle. We live and lead in an increasingly volatile and
uncertain world. But paradoxically, Cashman contends that leaders
today must not merely act more quickly but pause more deeply.

In addition to being an author, Cashman is a top-ten thought leader and global CEO coach. He is the founder of the Chief Executive Institute, referred to as the “Mayo Clinic” of executive development by Fast Company magazine. He also founded LeaderSource, which later joined Korn/Ferry International, where Cashman is now Senior Partner, CEO and Executive Development.

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Cashman has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive, Human Resource Executive, Fast Company, Strategy & Leadership, Oprah, CNN, and National Public Radio. StartupNation’s interview with this leader of leaders is below:

What was the catalyst for writing The Pause Principle?

Cashman: Paradoxically, pause powers purposeful performance. From observing, assessing, and coaching thousands of senior leaders around the globe for the last 30 years, one critical differentiating characteristic became apparent. Those leaders who stepped back, who practiced intentional reflection, had better self-awareness, better listening and coaching skills, and tended to make better personal, interpersonal, and business breakthroughs.

In my work with senior leaders, I noticed that nearly all breakthroughs were preceded by some type of pause-through. An assessment, some feedback, a new strategy, or a boundary-breaking innovation was all born after some type of pause. Pause is the human mechanism for going deep to synthesize and emerging with insight and clarity – it’s such a powerful concept that I simply couldn’t not share it.

In today’s fast-paced market, we often hear that speed wins. How is it that speed is critical to success, yet your book is urging business owners and managers to pause and be more reflective in order to be more effective?

Cashman: Our world today suffers from an epidemic of “hurry sickness.” Increasingly, we are going everywhere but being nowhere. We are moving faster and faster, but for often without a clear purpose. We trade speed for significance and performance for purpose, but at what costs?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Busy? The ants are busy.” The question we need to ask is, “Busy for what purpose?” The inspiration for writing The Pause Principle was to bring more authenticity and purpose to our leadership and our lives in order to balance our hyperactive, non-sustainable, busy-ness culture.

Information overload is a major challenge for business owners today. What are some specific tactics for keeping up-to-date, yet concurrently keeping one’s focus on what truly will drive growth?

Cashman: Meet the demands of speed and action with about 80% of your time and energy. Then consciously step back and embrace the most important, the most complex part of your job with about 20% of pauseful, deep reflective time and energy.

During this time, engage other colleagues collaboratively to break through with probing questions: What do we see? What might be possible if we did x, y, or z? What if we did this or that? What if we saw this through the customers’ eyes? What if we considered the environmental and community impact? Why are we doing this? What might be possible if we saw our product and our organization with new eyes?

Demanding cultures do want results, and paradoxically, pause powers performance. Pause powers results. Use it to show how to transform the status quo and maybe, just maybe, your hyperactive, demanding culture will come to appreciate some new approaches to performance and innovation. The Pause Principle is not about slowing down speed or demands; it is about consciously stepping back to find better ways to grow ourselves, others, and cultures of innovation. Like and archer, the more forcefully we pull back the bow, the more dynamic and powerful the shot. The purpose of pause is to step forward with greater impact, sustainability, resilience, creativity, and authenticity.

In your book, you highlight the importance of growing a culture of innovation. Can you explain what you mean by "failing your way to innovation" and how this fits into your model of The Pause Principle?

Cashman: While rallying people around a common, compelling mission of innovation is crucial, it is also extremely critical to create an atmosphere where experimentation and failure is seen as an ally not a threat. Most organizations aspire for innovation, but because they also do everything possible to avoid failure, they unknowingly squeeze the innovative life force out of the culture. While most organizations want innovation, they don’t realize that much of what they do kills it.

Seymour Cray, the godfather of the supercomputer industry, was known for his astounding ability to fail, learn and recover. John Rollwagen, the former CEO of Cray Research once shared with me, “I have never seen anyone fail, recover and learn so quickly. Seymour Cray was fearless in his experimentations and lightning fast in his ability to learn from failed attempts. He visibly innovated through rapid failure.”

Experimentation requires the diligence to increase success and the courage to learn from risk and failure. As innovative leaders, we must have the confidence and self-trust to repeatedly risk failure, the courage and openness to absorb hard-earned learning, and the endurance to eventually break through.

If someone starting a new business today picked up your book, what would be the single most important lesson that they could learn in order to increase the probability of their new company’s success?

Cashman: At some point, you need to make the leap from effective management to transformational leadership, because authentic, purposeful leadership is what keeps organizations on the path to growth. Pause is the catalyst for this transformation. Effective managers focus on speed and transaction, while exceptional leaders focus on significance and transformation. Effective managers seek control and process, while exceptional leaders seek contribution and meaningful purpose. At its core management is about content, and leadership is about deeper, broader context.

Pause is the conscious, intentional process to move from control, content, and speed to the higher order principles of contribution, context, and significance. The mechanism, the way to elevate our leadership, is paradoxically to step back from the hyperactive fray to see the bigger picture within us, in relationship with others, and within our marketplace. The leaders who pause to breakthrough thrive in today’s volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous world.

Purchase The Pause Principle

Follow Kevin Cashman on Twitter.

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