Timeouts – Not Just for Kids

best of friendsFor most of us to do our jobs well, ‘think time’ is required – the time to see or hear new information, and then to assimilate it into what we already know. This process can give us a new perspective on issues – influencing our perspective so that what seemed urgent before may be cast in a different light. Likewise, what was invisible before may now be seen as an issue that will bite the team in the butt if left unattended. Taking ‘think-time’ gives us the opportunity to consider the implications and consequences of multiple courses of action – the opportunity to be proactive vs. just reacting.

But, in today’s short-staffed, ‘doing culture’, little of our time is allotted to thinking. What are you rewarded for – thinking or doing? How are you rewarding your project team? Perhaps a strategy of ‘doing’ would work if problems didn’t come up during a project. But as we know, problems and projects go hand-in-hand – and the ability to quickly identify the problem and implement a solution is critical to having a successful project. What is needed are creative, sustainable solutions so that the problem truly is solved – not just that the symptoms have been covered over with a Band-Aid. That creative, sustainable solution needs thought – different thought than before. Albert Einstein said, “The world that we have made as a result of the level of thinking that we have done so far, has created problems we cannot solve at the level of thinking at which we created them.” We need a different level of thinking – a fresh perspective. We need a ‘timeout’ from the doing in which to think about the situation differently.

Timeouts with skills development are the most impactful and beneficial – yielding the biggest benefit to the team. We worked with two feuding sides of a major product introduction project. The team was not getting the desired results and spending most of their time arguing. When asked to name what stood in their way, both sides agreed that underneath it all was a 2-year long unresolved conflict. We provided 2 days of knowledge, skills, and awareness training – skills building plus a ‘timeout’ for the entire team. On the 3rd day, we re-visited the unresolved conflict. Both sides used what they learned and resolved the conflict in just a couple of hours – not argued more, really resolved it. They then went back to their project – using the skills and the fresh perspective to resolve other conflicts and deliver their project ‘with better results than any of them could have imagined. For the sponsor, having all of the resources ‘in timeout’ for 3 days was very difficult and a struggle to sell ahead of time. Afterwards, the only comment was, ‘Look at these incredible results – why did we wait so long to do this?’

Invest in a skills building ‘timeout’ – team members will come away refreshed, with new awareness and new skills that they can use to resolve long-standing issues. They will immediately become more effective and quickly become more efficient -reaching better results with less time. Use these positives to balance out and, make the case for, committing the team’s time for a few days. It is the smart thing to do. It is the strategic thing to do. Take the ‘timeout’ – you have the opportunity to gain new results and have little to lose.

As you plan your team’s ‘timeout, don’t hesitate to call or write to us.  We want to support you by listening, coaching, and making recommendations so that you reach your goals.

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