Why stopping is often just what you need to do to move forward

Action is what leadership is all about. What are you doing today to make your business stronger? What progress have your employees made toward implementing the different facets of your growth plan? Each day is a checkpoint on progress. If things aren’t getting done, you want to know what the problem is so you can keep it all moving forward to achieve the goals you’ve set forth.

At times, it can be a very purpose-driven way to function. However, everyone has a limit. The longer you go at full speed without a break, the less productive your team becomes and the more likely it is that mistakes will occur.

It’s one of the hardest things for leaders to do, to know when to back off a bit and give everyone, yourself included, a chance to catch their breath. And yet, those opportunities to talk about anything other than work can be just what everyone needs to take a big step forward.

Paul Witkay is founder and CEO at the Alliance of Chief Executives, which has worked with business leaders in 40 countries around the world. He’s a big believer in the value of pausing in your work.

“In an age of smartphones and hyperconnectivity, we need to step back every now and then, take a breath and determine what we can eliminate so that the lives of our customers and employees are improved — and hopefully our own, as well,” Witkay wrote in a recent column in Smart Business.

“Although I can still relax and read a book while flying, I miss the time when that was the only thing I could do on a long flight.”

It’s often a lot easier, of course, to talk about taking these breaks than it is to actually do it. When we get into our work and we’re coming in early and leaving late, we get good at shutting out distractions and intently focusing on what needs to be done. We may not even realize that we’re wearing down, along with others in the business. We don’t understand that while we’re giving our best effort, we’re actually making it more difficult to reach our goal.

In his book, “The Laws of Subtraction,” Matthew E. May, a best-selling author and adviser to leading companies on innovation, talks about how doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing.

“It’s hard to slow down and think deeply, but it’s often the only way to find fresh new approaches to our most difficult challenges,” May wrote.

Don’t be afraid to take a break. It may be just the thing you need to take a huge leap forward.

Fred Koury is president and CEO at Smart Business Network