I’ve been teaching leadership courses in the corporate world for two decades. Many of the behaviors I have been teaching are the same. The responses I receive from people in my classes however is changing. And it’s not changing for the better.

What I’m noticing are participants in leadership roles that are tired, less hopeful and in extreme cases, they’re exhausted and broken.

Each concept I teach is met with head nodding approval of the importance of what they are learning.  I rarely get push back that the concepts wouldn’t be very helpful. They just can’t envision being able to do them in their current job or company. They say things like, “when will I have time to do that?” “But I’m so busy.” And the one that makes me saddest, “have you met MY boss?”

My brain is a strategist brain, it looks for the patterns, the formula, the deeper cause and the broader solution. The phrase I’m using today to describe what I see is Buried Under Busy. These are talented well intentioned people who accepted this promotion with hope and excitement to make a difference. That hope is now barely a light under the doorway and they all agree unanimously with the phrase …. Buried Under Busy.

Each organization has their unique challenges and opportunities and they too are well intentioned in their strategy and their approach. These organizations didn’t malicously create this environment for their employees.  I don’t anticipate being granted the power to universally change all organizations to a less frenetic pace so I’ll offer this phrase to each leader as response to Buried Under Busy.

Leading Happens in the Pauses.

I could add “Effective” Leading Happens in the Pauses.  You may have the title of Leader. When I look up the definition it states .. The person who leads or commands a group. Let me ask you, when you’re rushing from meeting to meeting and responding to emails and filling out reports, are you leading?  Are you providing direction for your group, inspiring the why and the vision of the company, coaching them through issues, teaching them skills to make the team more effective?

Leading happens when we pause to make eye contact with a manager in the hallway and offer a genuine smile and Good Morning.

Leading happens when we pause from our task list to call the colleague we know is struggling with a project to offer an ear and some supportive ideas.

Leading happens when we pause in the meeting to remind the team why their roles are important to the company and your customers.

Leading happens when we pause and look realistically at our task list for the week and then intentionally mark off the bottom third because we know it’s not going to get done anyway.

Leading happens when we pause and ask our team in the next meeting to brainstorm at least 3 things they can collectively stop doing because it’s not adding value to the department. If it is adding value and you’ve chosen incorrectly, you can add it back in later. I promise you it won’t be missed.

Leading happens when we pause from the tasks on our list and engage with our loved ones at home eye to eye and heart to heart because they will be at our life’s end, not the project manager breathing down your back.

Leading happens when we pause and look carefully at our goals and then pick the one or two that we know will have the most impact to our organization and focus intently on those and be okay with mediocre results on the others.

Leading happens when we pause and ask ourselves how we can spend more time coaching those that report to us so they have more confidence and more skills to get the job done with less angst.

Leading Happens in the Pause.

Pause today and decide. Decide today to back more control over your time and create more pauses.

Last night I received a call that several days I was scheduled to teach in April were being cancelled. Budget cuts. Their budget cut now means my budget is cut. I started to respond with frenetic activity.  Start emailing people, offering discounts, filling the calendar back up. “Get Busy!” my brain said. I sat in that state with heart racing and ideas generating and I started making a list. Then …….. I paused. The ideas I was generating seemed large in number, small in impact. In that pause I prayed, took a deep breath and decided to let this pause be a time of planning and preparation not frenetic stress and motion. I’m a hard worker, always have been, always will be. And I’m learning to effectively use the pause.

Leading Happens in the Pause.