Young Upstarts

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[Interview] Liz Bywater, PhD, President Of Bywater Consulting 

Liz Bywater, PhD, is a strategic advisor to the C-suite, working at the intersection of business and psychology. She integrates expertise in human behavior and organizational dynamics to help her clients thrive in an increasingly complex world.

She writes a monthly column for Life Science Leader, and expert commentary for the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, FierceCEO and other top media outlets.

With her new book, “Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed, and Thrive in a 24/7 World“, she shares a rapidly actionable framework for success.

1. Describe your professional background and your motivation for writing “Slow Down to Speed Up“.

With a PhD in clinical psychology and many years’ experience helping clients live happier, more productive lives, I’ve spent the past 17 years advising CEOs and other senior executives and their teams in the Fortune 50. I wrote “Slow Down to Speed Up” to help my clients and other busy executives and entrepreneurs get better, faster, more sustainable results in a world of constant busyness, ongoing distractions and 24/7 connectivity.

2. Why do so many fail to carry out such a basic concept as pausing to consider the best way forward?

Many business leaders fail to slow down and pause long enough to thoughtfully consider the best possible path forward because they feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work on their plates and the demand to get rapid results at all costs. They’re moving so quickly, trying to accomplish so much, that slowing down may not even cross their minds… or may feel like an indulgence they can’t or won’t allow themselves. I’ve found that, in fact, slowing down at the right times, in the right ways, leads to far better, more sustainable results and fewer costly or egregious errors.

3. What tends to go wrong when all the attention goes towards in-the-moment demands and putting out fires?

When all the attention goes to in-the-moment demands, three things happen:

Preventable mistakes are made. Sometimes repeatedly. And often at great cost. The price is paid in dollars, industry repute, lost business, missed opportunities and personal credibility.

Decision-making suffers. Hasty decisions are made rather than truly thoughtful, data-driven decisions. The quality and outcome of those decisions are often inferior and may lead to missed opportunities for growth.

Creativity plummets. When leaders act too quickly, and when their teams are put under pressure to get things done as quickly as possible, innovation is stifled as the status quo (which is both familiar and easier to implement) dominates.

4. How should we best utilize a strategic pause?

A strategic pause is a deliberate break to stop doing and start thinking. It’s taking a few minutes of quiet and calm to think through a problem, strategize before an important meeting, sit down with a team member or business partner to work through a challenge or new opportunity, build important relationships, increase trust or simply center oneself and improve effectiveness.

One of the examples I use in the book involves the health care profession, where administrative leaders tend to focus on the immediate needs of the bottom line and growing market share. But the president of Beth Israel Medical Center, after slowing down to reassess priorities, urged staff members to get back to basics and focus on why they were really there — to take care of the patients. That directive helped staff refocus and reprioritize the work to better align with the hospital’s values.

5. What are some ways your clients have benefitted from taking time to slow down?

Clients have benefitted in the following ways:

• Taking the time to pause with the team, such as in a full day or two offsite, away from the distractions and fires of the day, has led directly and immediately to enhanced trust among team members, dramatically increased collaboration and rapidly improved business results (catapulted sales, higher revenue, a much stronger position in the marketplace).

• By pausing to reflect, plan, strategize and gain clarity over the reason for and desired outcomes of any given interaction — for instance before meeting with key business partners — my clients have experienced far better, more productive conversations and reduced time wasted in resolving unproductive disagreements and disruptions to productivity.

• In pausing to thoughtfully consider market strategy, my Fortune 50 executive clients are able to make the best decisions around new business acquisitions and approach to the market. Direct results include elevated market position; stellar customer service; much stronger, higher performing teams; accelerated innovation and substantial growth.

To learn more, visit lizbywater.com.

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Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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