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Weathering the storm – The power of reflection and slowing down

“Cara, can you slow down a bit, because I’m in a hurry.” This is what a great business leader and mentor of mine said to me several years ago

Cara Macklin both an Entrepreneur and Coach, combines her hands on business experience previously as a director of the award winning Macklin Care Home Group, Malone Lodge Hotel and creating Northern Ireland’s first Lifestyle Care Home with her professional coach training. As founder of Cara Macklin Coach she helps entrepreneurs and successful leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit go from good to great through developing themselves, their team and ultimately their business. In this article, Cara talks about her views …

Anyone who knows me well would tell you that slowing down at anything is definitely not in my DNA, so I was a bit shocked when he said it to me. Over the years I have been able to reflect many times on this, and the important lesson my mentor taught me here.

One of the key challenges I witness when coaching entrepreneurs and senior leaders is the vast amount of information they are retaining, and the huge amount of workload they are carrying which must be achieved quicker than ever before. I thought this was more prevalent than ever with the last few weeks we’ve been through, and the importance of my mentor’s advice.

I realise now the mistakes I made years ago, particularly during pressurised times or through major business challenges I took off at the speed of light to sort things. Having learnt the hard way, I take a deep breath to slow myself down initially, come up with the best way forward and then take action. This reflection time, especially with my coaches has been invaluable to me.

This can seem counterintuitive, especially for senior leaders who feel you need to be flat out busy all the time. I often used the analogy of A&E with my nurse managers, imaging one scenario where the leaders and teams in the hospital are rushing around quickly and frantic to get things done. In contrast, the best emergency departments are so efficient, but I can only describe their leaders and teams as calm and swan like.

This is because they took the initial reflection time to plan and prepare things properly for when they get become under pressure.

When I compare running a business and being a leader today to say 20 years ago, two key things stand out to me. The vast amount of information and complexities impacting business today, combined with the speed that everything is moving at.

This has never been more paramount than what we’re now going through. Although that has its positives with progress happening, I often reflect it creates a lot more challenges for both leaders and organisations. The human mind doesn’t work as efficiently when it’s overloaded with information or complexities, and a confused mind just says “no”, when faced with any problems or challenges.

When I coach entrepreneurs and senior leaders one key area of focus is helping them to slow down their mind, so they can get clarity, take time and focus on what’s really important to make the most effective decisions to improve their business. Leaders who use effective reflective time experience various benefits. Creativity and innovation to think of totally new ideas.

Resourcefulness to create new solutions to challenges. Clarity to allow quicker decisions and actions to move forward quickly.

I was so lucky during my training as a coach, the experience allowed me to properly understand the important lesson my mentor had taught me years ago. This training, and my own coaches have given me lots of opportunities to slow down my mind, and during this time I have solved some of the most difficult challenges or come up with the best ideas to grow and develop my business.

One of the world’s top Leadership coaches Bob Proctor interviewed Brian Biro, one of America’s top swimming coaches who said the most important stroke for a competitive swimmer is not the resistance stroke going through the water, but the recovery stroke bringing their arm back over getting ready to go into the water.

Throughout the years as an Entrepreneur, I often heard leaders say to me, “but Cara I don’t understand why I’m not achieving more, I’m working more than 60 hours a week.” It often goes against the DNA of successful leaders to slow down, but in my opinion now more than ever leaders need to take time to reflect and get clarity, to be able to make the best decisions and direct their teams and organisations with a clear focus and plan. I was once told, no one ever makes a great decision when under pressure.

Now don’t get me wrong, I continue to work as hard as ever and carry out things with the same speed I always did, but now I’ve learnt the importance of building in reflection time. This is not only essential to make good decisions, think of new ideas to grow my business, but is so important for my overall health and well-being. But rather than thinking of it as slowing down, I think of it as a Formula 1 racing driver. To achieve peak performance, I need to regularly come into the pit lane to get refuelled and maintain the engine.

Like everyone else, I was knocked side roads when this pandemic began and was totally torn. With a background in elderly health care I thought every day about the frontline health care staff and vulnerable elderly, whilst as a business leader thinking about the impact on the economy and people’s livelihoods and businesses.

The first few weeks were crazy for everyone hour by hour dealing with another challenge and impact on themselves and their business. I hope with the support from government and business organisations and coaches, leaders can take a little reflection time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the impact of taking this time to reflect or what you’re doing to which is helping you or your business.

Contact Cara Macklin, [email protected] or for further information visit www.caramacklin.com