Why Top Executive Coaches Recommend the Clarity Break™
Executives—especially those at the top of organizations—tend to run themselves ragged.
It makes sense. Being responsible for so many things can be a big burden. Regardless of how big a business is, it’s a rare day when big problems aren’t looming. When challenges aren’t coming from the outside, motivated leaders find ways to create challenges for themselves.
But tackling all those challenges comes at a cost. Even people who thrive under pressure need a pause now and then.
Give me a break with these executive coaches!
I can hear the objections already:
“I don’t have time for breaks!”
“I love being busy. Down time is dead time!”
Such thinking is wrong, but not necessarily because someone with that mindset is a workaholic. It’s wrong because taking a little time to constructively step away from work can dramatically improve performance and uncover insights that otherwise remain hidden under the chaos.
Businesses that run on EOS® won’t be in the system long before they hear about Gino Wickman’s idea of the Clarity Break™. Wickman describes it as “an appointment with yourself”—a regularly scheduled time, following a cadence that’s right for you, when you put aside distractions to focus on the organization itself.
The idea of taking a break to restore productivity is not unique to EOS. Executive coaches and academics from across the spectrum of business thought make it a priority for executives who have hit a ceiling. For example, here’s a piece from the MIT Sloan Executive Education Blog prescribing breaks for better performance.
What makes the EOS Clarity Break different?
With my clients, I like to emphasize that the Clarity Break is, above all, alone time. Most executives—even the introverted types—are accustomed to spending a lot of time talking to people. It’s not always easy to convince them that occasionally shutting out the rest of the world is the best use of their time.
One of my clients told me early on that she didn’t like the idea of the Clarity Break. “It sounds like New Age mumbo jumbo,” she told me.
When I dug deeper, she revealed that she’d suffered from serious anxiety problems in her younger days. “I’ve worked hard to master being around people,” she said. Deliberately isolating herself sounded like a step back.
I told her I get it. I also told her to give the Clarity Break a try, following Wickman’s prescription: just a quiet place and a pad of paper, once a week for a month, to focus on the business, and on herself.
Her first try failed: she had her phone with her and couldn’t resist being sucked into email. I told her I’d come take her phone away the next time if it would help.
She tried again, this time leaving her phone in her car. “There’s something about that blank paper,” she later told me. “With nothing else to do, I began jotting down the things I wanted to accomplish. I covered ten pages.”
More than just the mumbo-jumbo of an executive coach
Of course, the goal of a Clarity Break isn’t to write an entire business plan. Sometimes nothing much seems to happen. The paper gets a few scribbles, maybe a drawing. But the result is often the same: clarity.
Clear thinking in today’s busy world isn’t easy to achieve. That’s especially true for people who lead organizations. And Clarity Breaks don’t always achieve the kind of clarity you might get at a silent meditation retreat. But that was never Gino Wickman’s goal. Instead, the Clarity Break allows an executive to do a few important things more easily:
- Focus on what’s important, which also means putting aside the small stuff.
- Get excited, because the focus is once again on what will drive the business forward, rather than what is holding it back.
- Get organized, by identifying the sources of frustration and laying them out on the page, where each of them can be attacked one at a time.
For my reluctant Clarity Breaker, that second session was all it took for her to develop a new habit.
At their company’s next quarterly, I noticed a distinct change in the way she was communicating with her team. She’d always been someone who liked to explore ideas by talking them through, which sometimes led down dead ends. Those habits were gone: she went straight to what she thought was the right approach to an issue, and started the conversation from there.
After the meeting I mentioned the change. “It’s the Clarity Breaks,” she told me. She’d developed her own approach to them. Some execs treat their Clarity Break notepads like scripture. Not her. “They’ve told me what I needed to hear, so I shred them,” she told me with a shrug.
Ready for a break?
Despite the pandemic I’ve been busy helping clients master the EOS Toolbox™, with strategies like the Clarity Break playing a key part. If you’d like to learn more about EOS and Clarity Breaks, or would just like to chat about business strategy, I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call at (818) 649-1103 or send me an email.