Archive for September, 2013

Take a Breath

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Increasingly I am working with hard driving executives and professionals who inadvertently disable their teams and colleagues with their intensity and pace. Their quick insight, ability to execute strategy and amazing results insulate them from getting helpful feedback.

Generally, these unbelievably capable and hard driving leaders blithely proceed in driving results and change, completely unaware of the unintended human consequences. Only a loss of critical talent or a heightened level of antagonism or increase in conflict brings into relief the collateral damage.

Then, we executive development consultants are called in to give “feedback” and repair the damage. Often our clients are appalled and shaken by the results of our findings. And they might struggle with reparation in an atmosphere of long established poor relationships. While executives might change their behavior immediately, sustained and consistent reactions and managing the distrust for these changes is a continuing challenge.

Here is where a little sticky note mantra is so useful; some call it magical.

Recently, I created one for a fast paced high performer which covered a lot of territory. I noticed that my client would breathlessly speak quickly, move quickly, shoot out instructions, appear demanding and controlling, and was surprised that her team lacked initiative, was afraid to ask questions, and scattered or put their heads down when she entered a room. When she felt rejected, my client redoubled her drive and exacerbated the resulting fear and avoidance.

We realized in reviewing these reactions that the sheer act of taking three breaths, speaking more slowly, and inviting dialogue reversed the doom loop. So, together we created the acronym “AIR,”
that stands for:


We then worked together on creating some behavioral changes in support of putting more AIR into the her speech, pace, and intention. Every time she finds herself speeding up and driving hard, she now looks at her AIR reminder, takes three breaths and slows down.

Yes, the results were astounding.