When coaching executives there is a common theme that I observe about most of them: they’re fast. They’re fast thinkers, fast movers, and they’re fast at producing results; That’s the world of business, isn’t it? The issue I notice is that this special type of person can be frustrated when others can’t keep up with their train of thought; there’s a lot of interrupting that goes on. I understand how this can happen: when there are lot of variables to think about, many people who are asking something, and a variety of deadlines that have to be met and things that have to be reconciled in one’s minds before one can move on to the next thing, how can it not be frustrating to deal with others who just don’t seem to keep up?
In a 2010 study reported in the Harvard Business Review, companies with fast paced thinking ended up with lower sales and operating profits whereas companies who slowed down to consider all of the factors during critical moments resulted in averaging 40% higher sales and 52% higher operating profits over a three-year period. (Davis, 2010)
The problem with fast thinking, “regardless of region, industry, company size, or strategic emphasis”, is that it leads to reactive and judgemental thinking and reactive thinking leads to sloppy work, mistakes, decreased productivity over time, and failed connections. The important value of C-suite of leading by strategically setting the pace – in other words, slowing down to think and ensure clear communication, trickles down to subordinates allowing for more collaboration, cross-departmental support, and creative thinking.
During sessions with fast thinkers, I can see the physical signs of confusion and frustration, and interject myself to get them to just stop their train of thought and get them to listen carefully to my questions (and most importantly, to stop thinking of their answer before I finish the question or a thought to consider). I then ask them to allow themselves a moment of silence, pull back from the emotional attachment of having to be right or producing the “right“ answer, and to just allow the silence to change their energy from amped up to relaxed.
Silences can be uncomfortable. I can’t count how many times I get uncomfortable looks when I ask a client to stop rushing and to slow down. Fortunately, most end up laughing after a long silence. It’s like playing the staring game until cracks up which is a great way to break physical and emotional tension. However, the point is, we can allow ourselves to get caught up in the racing thoughts, rushing energy, and the urges to produce something, anything. It’s amazing how giving a moment of silence and to allow ourselves to think and speak slowly can allow opportunities to find creative insight to problems.
Next time you’re feeling the need for speed, close your mouth, relax, and breath through your nose. Allow yourself to listen more; more to your team, to the inspiration around you, and to the silence itself.
Sources: Need Speed? Slow Down
Photo source: Design Sponge