This blog post was contributed by 15Be team member Jaime Leick.
I’m on pause. For the next year, I am actively not volunteering. For anything. This takes intention.
Many years ago, a colleague I admired announced he was taking a sabbatical. Not a sabbatical from work, but a sabbatical from community work. For me, a lifelong hand-raising “I can help with that!” achiever, the notion sounded radical. It sounded intriguing. Someday, I thought, I will give myself the same kind of break.
A year to recharge
“Someday” took about 15 years. But now, I’m using this as a period of self-care. It’s my year to insulate and explore new aspects of myself and my community. Oh, I have ideas about what I’d like to do next, and I still click on the volunteer appeals in my inbox (just looking!). But I want to know that I’m being deliberate about how I spend my time. For me, that means forcing myself to stop and reflect.
In early 2016, Kyra asked her team members to choose a one-word intention for the year. Mine was easy. I was going to reboot. I was retiring from a board, sending a foster son off to college, and transitioning chairmanship of an annual drive. It was a full year of prep for this, my year of ME.
Looking ahead to this time, I always thought of it as a sabbatical. The idea made me smile, and I could set the academic connotations aside. But now a different word is gaining traction. A better word, I think. Today, I am simply taking a pause.
I like this word for its versatility, its wide-ranging applicability.
Pause and be present.
Pause before you react.
Pause and turn off your devices.
Pause and reflect on what truly matters.
Pause and take a moment of quiet in your hectic day.
Pause and take a break in your career.
Intentional shifts along career paths
For Rachael O’Meara, an account manager at Google, pause meant taking a temporary leave from her job. As she writes in the New York Times, Google allows its employees to take unpaid leaves for reasons other than family issues.
When O’Meara’s manager suggested her current role wasn’t a good fit, she didn’t quit. She took a pause:
“The leave – or pause as I came to call it – allowed me to reassess my path and take stock of my strengths and my goals. I returned to Google three months later with a new job and a new outlook.”
O’Meara defines a pause as “an intentional shift in behavior.” And a pause, she seems to argue, gives us space to find that intention.
Pause: the new must-have manager skill
O’Meara’s message mirrors one of the same lessons we teach here. Learning to pause is a skill.
It’s easy to get distracted by what feels urgent. When we pause, we become more intentional and less reactive. We become more self-aware. We get better at recognizing choices and matching our actions to our values. We manage our energy in way that allows us to show up for others with purpose and empathy.
The myriad challenges managers face are leaving them fatigued and disengaged. Managers need to know that showing up burned out, stressed out, and weary doesn’t benefit your organization, their employees, or the people they serve. And they need help developing the skills to turn this trend around.
Pause is a skill that managers need to learn. Pause is how we overcome the culture of overwork. It’s how we manage our energy and create space for our team members to do the same. It’s how we get better at our jobs—not by doing more, but by being more, by being human.
Take a pause. It’s how we show others that leadership and wellbeing are not mutually exclusive endeavors.