wellbeing@work: The Power of the Pause

March 01, 2018
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

“By taking a bit of time each day to reflect, I’m a better team member and leader,” shared Sharon Price, our assistant treasurer, who’s been part of the Barry-Wehmiller family for 22 years. The value of reflection for leaders has long been part of our view here.

Through our Barry-Wehmiller University coursework, we share how reflection enables leaders to make changes from a traditional to an inspirational way of leading others.

“There is not only value to starting and stopping your day with reflection, but implementing a core behavior of leadership: to exercise the power to pause and reflect when we cannot see the solution or are stuck,” noted Paul Lapreziosa, Director of Barry-Wehmiller University. “Reflection allows you to slow down the hurry and worry of the day and focus on the possibilities, rather than the immediate response in the moment.

“A key part of reflection ties to how you continue to shape and grow your mindset. In short, how you think is how you lead.”

A recent Harvard Business Review article confirms the power of reflection: Research by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano and Bradley Staats in call centers demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23 percent better after 10 days than those who did not reflect. A study of U.K. commuters found a similar result when those who were prompted to use their commute to think about and plan for their day were happier, more productive and less burned out than people who didn’t.

What Sharon has discovered, however, is that reflection also is beneficial to our overall mental and physical health. She became interested in learning more about mindfulness and breathing meditation over a year ago.Sharon_office

“I decided to take a continuing-education course from our local community college to understand more about the role mindfulness could play in my life, and started from there,” said Sharon. “I practice more of a mindful meditation, which flows over into life—work life included. I don’t have it down perfectly, and it’s definitely a work in progress.”

For her, when she sets aside 20 minutes each morning at home to reflect and gather her thoughts, it reinforces the idea that the only time that matters is the present. This mindset and awareness help keep any worries and second-guessing thoughts at bay, as well as offer guidance as she successfully manages the typical workday frustrations that arise from time to time.

“Mindfulness brings a focus to my day,” noted Sharon. “Life feels less hectic and more productive.”

Unfortunately for most, frenzied workdays are all too common. According to a 2010 Harvard study, people spend 47 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and that distracted, unengaged feeling typically makes them more unhappy. What’s more, studies have shown that multitaskers could be doing harm to their brains.

Conversely, other studies have shown that mindfulness can reduce stress, strengthen practitioners’ immune systems and even slow the aging process!

My good friend, Raj Sisodia, the coauthor of our book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family, has talked and written a lot about mindfulness. He regularly uses a presence practice, both alone, and with students and corporate audiences.

Said Raj: “Mindfulness helps you to be fully present, without which it is impossible to be effective in any domain, especially leadership.”

For me, mindfulness doesn’t come through guided meditation or sitting quietly with my thoughts, but rather when I’m active, out walking or hiking. That’s when I really feel the benefits of taking the time to slow down and reflect.

For Sharon, she sees the difference in herself not only at work as she leads her team, but also at home. She and her husband, who also has taken up a mindfulness practice, recently took a trip to the Grand Canyon, made all the more profound for them because of their newfound appreciation of living in the moment.

“I’m grateful to have found something meaningful that works for me and my overall wellbeing,” said Sharon. “When my practice is the strongest, each day feels well-lived.”

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