We love this useful twist on a well-known phrase: “Don’t just do something, sit there”. Sylvia Boorstein, mindfulness meditation teacher and author, coined it (and even wrote a book with that title), and we think it’s a good way to encapsulate how the most effective leaders we’ve worked with meet challenges.
Engrained in our collective leadership consciousness is the notion that action oriented leaders win the day. See a problem, pounce on it. Identify a challenge, take action! To that, we say yes, and… Taking action is important, but taking the right action is most important. It may even be true that taking action is easy, where taking skillful action is much more difficult.
This is where Boorstein nailed it for business leaders. Perhaps the hardest thing imaginable for a busy executive is to consider inaction as productive. And yet, it is in moments of sitting there, just sitting there, that one actually determines: first what is actually happening (the situation occurring outside of myself and within), and second, what the best or right action seems to be.
Don’t just do something; that’d be too easy. Sit there; take a moment or two. Consider, must something be done, or might it actually be best to wait and observe? Think about whether or not you are reacting appropriately to what is happening. If you choose to respond, what is the most helpful response?
What might it mean for you?
Think about the difference between a reaction and a response. A reaction is simple, immediate, and often unskilled. Responses are deliberate, thoughtful and usually more skillful. So, take a moment to not do something. Take the time to consider- what is needed here? Is your voice or action necessary and helpful? If you were to do nothing, what results might you expect? If action is necessary, sit in stillness long enough to consider your intentions, your approach and your plan. We bet you will find it helpful!
About the Ten Insights series
This post is part of a set of the blog posts highlighting ten of the most important insights we have gained in the past decade of executive coaching and team facilitation work. We are sharing these insights with our mailing list in a series of bite-sized emails just like this one. We hope you enjoy them! Sign up below to subscribe.