The power of the pause: How to supercharge your change journey 

In a world that constantly demands high-speed progress, the value of a well-timed pause often gets overlooked. In this blog post, we delve into the significance of hitting the brakes during your change journey and how it can lead to better outcomes, sustained momentum, and healthier teams. 

And what better time than Autumn as many businesses turn their attention to business planning for the year ahead. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the art of pausing and how it can transform your business. 

Change is a marathon, and not a sprint 

Change, as we all know, takes time – often more time than we wish it would. Like running a marathon, you’ll need to strategically plan, pace yourself, and be determined to reach the finish line. 

If you’re approaching your change program with a sprint mentality, it’s like trying to run a marathon at full speed from the starting line – unless you’re Paula Radcliffe/Mo Farah – you’ll exhaust yourself quickly and won’t have the stamina to make it to the end. 

Similarly, if you’re pushing your teams to operate at full throttle constantly, not only is it unrealistic, but it’s also a surefire path to burnout. Burnout doesn’t just exhaust individuals; it saps the wellspring of creativity that drives innovation. Say goodbye to those brilliant solutions and fresh ideas you were hoping for. 

Moreover, burnout disrupts focus and kills momentum. Projects that were once charging ahead can fizzle out, leaving your team disheartened and worn out. This is what I call “running the gauntlet of the red line” – pushing so hard that you burn out and lose steam. 

Enter the power of the pause 

The antidote to this burnout-driven derailment is the power of the pause. The pause acts as a cornerstone to prevent projects from fizzling out. It creates a plateau, a moment of respite, from which to gather fresh energy and reignite the all-important momentum. It’s about keeping you on the green line – and a sustainable pace that ensures longevity and success. 

Three tips for harnessing the pause 

#1 Quarterly reviews: a moment to reflect and reframe 

Just as you review your business’s performance every quarter, it’s equally crucial to review the progress of your ongoing change projects. Some key questions to ask during these reviews include: 

  • Are the intended benefits clear? 
  • Are we on track to achieve those benefits? 
  • Where are we against the project plan? 
  • What roadblocks need to be addressed? 
  • Are all stakeholders still on board? 

#2 The ‘Taking Stock’ meeting: Navigating fatigue and frustration 

In the midst of any project, there comes a point when frustration mounts and fatigue sets in. Recognise this and call for a ‘taking stock’ meeting. Allow your team to voice their feelings and concerns. Change is demanding and getting others to embrace new ways of working can be both rewarding and exhausting in equal measure. Address these feelings, don’t ignore them. Sometimes, just verbalising them can make a world of difference. At other times, it may highlight that something needs to change in what or how you are approaching things.  

At one such ‘taking stock’ meeting, one of my project teams aired their frustrations about the lack of engagement from a group of managers who were critical to the project’s success. After talking through the issue, they realised the lack of engagement was caused by using email as the main form of communication for a staff group who rarely had time to access a computer. They introduced informal walkabouts and within a matter of weeks had a fully engaged, and bought in, group of stakeholders. 

#3 Celebrate endings and beginnings 

When a project reaches its conclusion or a key milestone is achieved, seize the opportunity to conduct a ‘lessons learnt’ exercise. Reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what can be improved next time. And don’t forget to celebrate! Acknowledge the effort and dedication, regardless of the outcome. Celebration is great for maintaining long term motivation as people can look back on these moments when the ‘going gets tough’, which it inevitably will, and be reminded of the progress and ‘wins’ they have made. 

Arriving at the midpoint of a project ahead of time, I took a project team out to celebrate, a novelty in the organisation at the time. Not only did this keep spirits high through the challenging months of implementing the new solution, but members of the team also talked about the project and the fun they had long after the project had been completed and they were back in their business-as-usual roles. 

Other benefits of pausing 

A perspective shift: Focus on how far you’ve come 

One of the most powerful benefits of the pause is the chance to reflect on your achievements. It’s easy to underestimate how much progress you’ve made. Rather than fixating on the remaining distance, focus on how far you’ve already come. This shift in perspective is a genuine motivator and can provide the resilience needed to face challenging days. 

Harnessing the pause for career growth 

Taking a cue from this Forbes article, embracing the pause also has profound implications for career growth. It’s not just about projects – it’s about your personal journey too. If you’re tired of treading on a never-ending professional hamster wheel embracing strategic pauses can lead to more clarity, personal development, and ultimately, better career decisions. 

One practical exercise: ‘Stop, Start, Continue, End’ 

To tangibly embrace the pause, integrate the ‘stop, start, continue, end’ exercise into quarterly reviews. This tool ensures ongoing projects are completed before venturing into new ones, with shared ownership enhancing effectiveness.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of our to-do lists, believing that everything is urgent and important. So, remember that taking breaks is not counterproductive; it’s a crucial catalyst for sustainable success. If you’re accustomed to constant high-speed activity, intentionally pausing might feel disruptive. But being busy doesn’t equate to being truly productive. Adjust your mindset to embrace the power of the pause, giving yourself the time to reflect and renew your journey with newfound energy and vigour. 

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