The best advice you're never told (part 2)

By Paul Gallagher, Rated PG

Following on from Part 1 of this short series on ‘The best advice you’re never told’, I’m sharing the five rules for an effective—highly strategic—pause before you make a decision. It’s the sort of advice you probably need, but never get from a comms guru…

Part 2—The 5 rules for an effective pause

1) Pausing does not equal worrying

It’s not true that taking a breath before making a decision means you are a weak leader. Neither is it an opportunity for you to have your cup of coffee while imagining the worst.

A smart pause should give you a chance to look at what has led you to the problem you have, and consider the options you’re considering.

The truth is, you are a brave soul when you’re vulnerable enough to say ‘I’m not comfortable with this just yet’. Too many failures have come from the ‘We’ve got to do SOMETHING!’ mindset.

2) Pausing is the best time to turn down the volume

Stopping the rush towards action can be the one reason you avoid failure. And if done before making the critical decision, it gives you a chance to amend and refine an approach into something worth doing.

Just before making a critical comms or strategic decision, most work environments are in that dangerous ‘busy’ place. Lots of voices. Rushing. Heaps of emails back and forth.

That’s the time to hone your focus, not widen your inputs.

Slow it down. Turn the noise lower. Think for a moment, and then act with more confidence than while the volume was at ‘11’!

(My recently departed whippet knew the principle well! Lily would rush about excitedly all of a sudden, but only after contemplating the speedy dash via 23 hours of horizontal contemplation.)

3) Pausing is not a licence for indecision

A well-timed pause is intended to result in a better decision, or a complete halt that is superior to immediate action. Neither outcome should be mischaracterised as indecision.

Being indecisive, or unwilling to make a hard call, is weakness by another name.

In fact, being too quick to decide on a matter can be just as destructive as doing nothing—leaving you facing a failure that’s beyond fixing.

4) Pausing can look a lot like sleeping to the untrained eye

It may not be popular with your team, or your contractors, to say something like, ‘Let me sleep on it’.

Chances are, they want to move on to the next shiny object rather than wait for your amendments and eventual signoff.

But a good night’s sleep before embarking on a big decision helps you either see things a little clearer or builds your confidence to a point of strength you weren’t yet in.


Turn the noise down!

‘Just before making a critical comms or strategic decision, most work environments are in that dangerous ‘busy’ place. Lots of voices. Rushing. Heaps of emails back and forth.’

5) A pause precedes action rather than avoiding it

Stopping to take a breath before acting is about making the right decision. It is not about avoiding signoff.

Ultimately, something positive has to be done to fix a problem. In my experience, problems never go away over time. They just reproduce when ignored. Rabbits, for example, will only increase if ignored. A weird analogy I know, but that’s how I roll!

You could sum up this whole advice with the following golden rule:

Pause. Then act.

Images credits: The main photo is from by Michelle on Unsplash. The meme pictured in this post is from Meme Generator.