We teach our children to STOP! One of the first rules they learn is when on fire “Stop! Drop! and Roll!”. As they venture out into the world, we teach them to “Stop! and look both ways before crossing the street.” When they start to drive, we teach them to come to a complete stop at red lights, stop signs and cross walks. Most faith systems require their followers to take some time to stop from their routine. However, as we grow older, we lose that appreciation of the ability to stop. For the executive, finding that time to stop is crucial. What happens to children who don’t learn the STOP! rule? They put themselves and others in danger. The executive does the same thing. Stopping gives time to pause and reflect, time to stop and remember, time to look ahead and really see.
Looking is also really important. You know if you are traveling down the highway at top speeds, you had better be looking at what is ahead. If the you are going so fast that the telephone poles look like a picket fence, are you really seeing anything? Probably not. To really see what is around you, you have to stop. If you are distracted from your looking – by your cell phone or the kids in the back seat- bad things happen. The same is true in business. Take to time to stop. When you stop, look around. We often hear that someone can’t see the forest for the trees. If you are stopped and looking, you may be able to discern the forest. It may give you time to climb one of the trees and actually have a look at the forest. You certainly won’t see it running through the forest.
Finally, when you are stopped and looking, you may be able to hear that still small voice that is wisdom calling. Your wisdom, others wisdom, the wisdom of the ages. I, and others, have written often on the power of listening. I won’t go over it all again here. It is relatively popular these days to hear someone say that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Mostly, we give lip service to the concept of listening – which in and of itself is ironic. I learned to listen to that still small voice the hard way. When I was quiet (usually happens when I am sleeping), I would “hear” a warning of some kind. When I was a young manager, I ignored the warning. It would often turn out badly. I can be a slow learner. Obviously, this doesn’t happen every day. Over the course of years, my hearing a “warning” and my not acting on it, got me into a number of unpleasant situations. After a while, I learned that warning bells were not to be ignored. If I would stop, listen to the warning, look at the situation in light of the warning bell, I would save myself a lot of time, trouble and money.
We can’t go back to childhood. Most of us would not want to go back. However, we can bring forward the advice of those older and wiser. Stop! Look! Listen!