The Pause Principle: A book review by Bob Morris

The Pause Principle: Step Back to Lead Forward
Kevin Cashman
Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2012)

“Great things are achieved by reflection, force of character, and judgment.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

In his previous book, Kevin Cashman advocates what he characterizes as “leadership from the inside out” and I certainly agree that the most effective leaders are authentic in terms of their character and values as well as their talents and expertise. Unless they are respected and trusted, no one will follow them.

All that said, there must also be “leadership from the outside in” in terms of recognizing, understanding, and appreciating their hopes, needs, dreams, and concerns of those whose allegiance and support one aspires to attract and sustain. In his latest book, Cashman introduces what he characterizes as the “Pause Principle.” That is, those occasions, when appropriate, leaders need to “pause to discover new ways of being and achieving” by becoming much more alert, more attentive, and more conscious in the given circumstances, especially in relations with those with whom the situation is shared. The purpose of the pause, then, is to reflect and hopefully see more clearly and understand more fully whatever is of greatest importance.

By nature and temperament, some people are more adept with regard to the Pause Principle than others are. In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain observes, “Introverts thrive in environments that are not overstimulating—surroundings in which they can think (deeply) before they speak. This has many implications. Here are two to consider: (1) Introverts perform best in quiet, private workspaces—but unfortunately we’re trending in precisely the opposite direction, toward open-plan offices. (2) If you want to get the best of all your employees’ brains, don’t simply throw them into a meeting and assume you’re hearing everyone’s ideas. You’re not; you’re hearing from the most vocally assertive people. Ask people to put their ideas in writing before the meeting, and make sure you give everyone time to speak.”

The key point is not that everyone should be or become an introvert; rather, that there is much of value to learn from how introverts live and work. By nature, they do so with greater care for what they say or do, for example, and are more congenial collaborators and more reliable friends. This is precisely what Cashman has in mind when observing,  “The Pause Principle is the conscious, intentional process of stepping back, within ourselves and outside of ourselves, to lead forward with greater authenticity, purpose, and contribution.” Throughout history, the greatest leaders follow and are guided by what James O’Toole characterizes as an Executive Compass and by what Bill George characterizes as their True North. What Cashman offers in this book is a “value-creating methodology,” one that “allows more examination, higher-order logic, rational analysis, more profound questioning, deeper listening, higher-quality presence, broader perspective, greater openness to diverse thinking and input, and ultimately more impactful, influential, and innovative action.”

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o  Fighting Fires with Pause (Pages 12-13)
o  The Power of Questions: The Language of Pause (21-22)
o  Bringing Clarity to Complexity (24-28)
o  What Is This Thing Called Character? (45-52)
o  Transcendental Pause (66-72)
o  The Power of Synergy (81-82)
o  The Language of Growing Others: The Language of Pause (86-94)
o  Step Back to Lead Forward: Seven Pause Practices to Grow Others (103-106)
o  The World Belongs to the Innovative (107-111)
o  Fail Your Way to Innovation (116-118)

I agree with Kevin Cashman that it is up to all of us, in all areas of our lives, to “pause it forward with authenticity, purpose, and generativity.” Long ago, Hillel the Elder (c. 60 BC-10 AD) asked, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”  After we pause to recognize and understand what we can achieve together, we must then do what must be done.  If we don’t, who will?

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