When is it okay to make teams wait?
I was discussing the benefits of a temporary pause with an executive last week and it reminded me of when I first heard of the Condor moment. What does the tagline of a pipe tobacco advert have to do with waiting? Condor described that moment as a five minute break for the smoker to indulge themselves in the moment. This term was then adopted by the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as an informal principle or rule for commanders. In the military context, it is the five minutes that commanders experience when first encountering the enemy, not for pipe smoking necessarily, but to observe the situation, orientate themselves to the scenario and plan for subsequent action. The Condor moment is a highly prized moment and like all good commodities it is finite and has multiple benefits, for multiple stakeholders.
When we receive a surprise in life, business, personal, or on the battlefield, we experience stress caused by the sudden release of cortisol and adrenaline preparing for fight or flight. The impact of this sudden release is what has become known as amygdala hijack and can cause us to be, illogical, irrational and make knee-jerk reactions. The Condor moment can be used to reduce these negative effects by consciously activating the frontal cortex, which is the rational and logical part of the brain. This has a calming effect.
Life continues during a Condor moment, so overcoming amygdala hijack as soon as possible enables more time to effectively plan for the next course of action.
Pausing is often viewed as a negative as it can be attributed to indecisive management, but pausing can be beneficial to individuals and organisations to take a tactical pause in response to the unforeseen. Pausing only becomes a problem when a well-intended temporary pause turns into a delay and the externalities of a scenario gain tempo and momentum to overwhelm the individual or organisation.
How long is too long? I’d be interested to hear your experiences of using calming techniques or where you've seen a temporary pause turn into a delay. If you would like to see more articles about business leadership subscribe for the latest content.