By Matthew Spooner
Earlier today while decluttering my email inbox I came across an old weekly digest email from McKinsey & Company. One article jumped out at me entitled: "Lead at your best". I had just had a day on which I wasn't feeling my alert and empathetic self. And so, the title of the article drew me in.
When reading the 5 simple exercises that authors Joanna Barsh and Johanne Lavoie share in their "Lead at your best" article it may be easy to tell ourselves: "Oh of course, I know that." At the same time, leadership abilities are continuously developed and honed over time. Sometimes, reading familiar messages can jolt us into raising our awareness of our situation and to moving forward.
Of the 5 exercises, the 2nd one of "Practice the pause" resonates with me most today. On a day crammed with appointments, I feel I failed to pause sufficiently at intervals through out the day to better direct my energy and efforts. Instead of taking the instinctive 'fight, flight, or freeze' reaction, what if I had paused and reflected on what I was experiencing before jumping to action?
In using the metaphor of an iceberg where little is visible above the surface, authors Barsh and Lavoie share the following exercise to do in a quiet environment to help us reflect before making a decision.
What are you doing or not doing?
What are you saying or not saying?
How are you acting?
What effect are your words and actions having?
What are you thinking and feeling but not expressing?
What negative outcomes are you most worried about?
What is most important to you?
What belief do you hold about this situation, about yourself, and about others?
What is at stake for you here?
Are you aware of any deeper desires and needs?
If indeed, "You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with", then how about also considering what impact what you are reading is having on you?
Take a moment to pause and ask yourself:
What were the last 5 books or articles I read?
What did I learn from these?
How am I, or have I, applied what I learned from these books/articles in my life and work?
What do I want to read more of? Why?
What do I want to read less of? Why?
In this age of smart phones and tablets, some of my friends are reading less than they did 10 years ago. Some have difficulties recalling the last book they read, although they read their Twitter, Facebook and WeChat virtually everyday.
At the end of the day, we are free to choose how we wish to spend our time. And of course there is no perfect path. Albeit, the quality of the ideas you are inputting into your head may be as important as the people you choose to spend the most time with.
So how about doing a little self audit on what you read. And perhaps, choose to go on a diet of either more or less.