The principle of ‘pausing’ – to reflect more deeply before speaking, acting or deciding – was the central precept behind the founding of Waverley in 2000. At the time we were noticing how leaders were increasingly operating at what we termed ‘the edge of their energy’, running to keep up, and depriving themselves of the true resourcefulness of their deeper insights. ‘To systematically eradicate ‘busyness’ from your life’ was how one of our founding contributors, a Benedictine monk, framed the challenge for us, as we designed our first leadership retreats
Modern neurobiology is now providing the science behind the ancient wisdom that has inspired the use of ‘retreats’ in so many traditions. The important integrative functioning of the mid pre-frontal cortex (which connects emotional insight as well as rational) is only accessed in ‘pause’ states. Without this, the processing engine of the massive neo-cortex simply cannot make the connections necessary to interpret complex experience.
Over the years since 2000, the pace, volume of information and pressure on leaders at all levels (but particularly those in the middle of the system) has increased exponentially. There is constant frustration at the perceived reactiveness, lack of vision or initiative, of managers in today’s organisations. The counter-intuitive response is not to speed up, but, briefly, to slow down – in order to go further, faster. Today’s leaders have to combine pace in actions/decisions with depth of thought/reflection.
The insights we gained and the techniques we pioneered on our early retreats now inform our wider practice, not only in how we coach and develop but also in how we consult and support our clients in the day-to-day embedding of powerful leadership practices ‘in the moment’ – simple, powerful, self-recollective techniques that turn data into insight, experience into wisdom, energy into purpose.
That is what pausing for performance is all about – it is a paradox; a small pause that engenders massive movement.