The score is tied, and the game is on the line. There are less than 30 seconds remaining and the other team has the ball. What does a good basketball coach do? He calls a time out.

The rehearsal is going poorly. The actors’ lines aren’t landing well and their timing is off. What does a thoughtful director do? She stops the rehearsal to provide coaching.

The marching band is not in sync. The drumbeat is off, and many band members are out of step. What does the experienced band leader do? He stops the practice briefly to correct the problem.

In each of these examples, a change of course is needed and the leader sees that a pause, break, or timeout is necessary to accomplish that.

If you or your team are experiencing any of the following, a pause may be needed to refocus the energy, to change the trajectory, and to alter the outcome:

  • Panic
  • Anger
  • Ugliness in words, body language, or tone
  • Stress, sarcasm, or sloppy work
  • Ego

Any one of these actions or feelings can turn a positive environment into a negative one.

Whether you are in a leadership position or a participant in a meeting, calling for a pause to slow down or delay decision making until the environment is optimal might be just the most important action you can take.

Mark Twain once said, “The right word may be effective, but no word is as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

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