Change lies in this instant, the divide between past and future. It offers tiny windows of opportunity to be different. If you could pause and make a choice versus just reacting, how differently would you lead? Take a lesson from Frances Hesselbein and Eric Shineski, who developed the famous "Be Know Do" leadership development model adopted by the Army. "Be," or who you are, is the key. How can you unlock your best leadership? Hint: It is in the Now. Who you chose to be. The question to change who you are and how you act is: Who do you want to be, right now?
When Marshall Goldsmith first heard that I ask myself this question many times a day, he stopped our meeting. I was stunned when he said: "I've read 400 books on Buddhism and that's the best definition of mindfulness I've ever heard."
How does it work? The question can give you the lever to crack open that space between a stimulus and your response. In his book Triggers, Goldsmith points out that in essence, if you can lead yourself in that moment, you can lead anyone. When you're triggered, you need a jolt to get back on track. If this split-second question becomes a habit, it can change your career and your life.
A couple of examples:
Jennifer, the CEO of a biotech company, finds out an employee hasn't delivered on an important project. Without thinking, she has that intake of breath that releases that edgy irritable comment: How many times do I need to ... Then, she asks herself that split-second question: Who do I want to be right now? She pauses, asks the employee one friendly, information question, and possibly finds out something important her company needs to know.
Jose, CFO, is beyond capacity, yet can't say no. His CEO doesn't think twice about piling on work, and asks for yet another analysis that Jose knows won't add value. His energy sinks and the reflexive yes is on the tip of his tongue. Does he give in, or does he think, Who do I want to be right now? Do meaningless work and become resentful? Or, pause and say just one sentence to slow the request down and buy time for both to think it through.
What if they could stop at those moments? What if you could stop 20 a day?
You're next in line at the grocery store. The person in front of you is talking and talking, and the cashier is talking back. Your blood pressure goes up you have that tiny amygdala hijack of stress and ...
It's more important than you think. Research shows that the small "dings" of everyday life create more neurological wear and tear than big events. Stopping the hijack has many neurological psychological and cognitive benefits. Research also shows that your tiny actions have a huge impact on how people experience you. Everyday moments are the "who" that HBS leaders talk about.
There are 30,000 seconds in a day--so how many different choices can you make? Great idea, you are now thinking, and you want to try it -- but will even remember to try? Garry Ridge, CEO of WD40 Company loves the question: Who do I want to be right now? He suggests, if something is not in front of you, you won't remember it. Write it down and put up a Post-It. Better yet, a poster.