My brother, Mike, works for Team Fishel, one of the finest utility construction and network installation companies in the United States. A couple of years ago, Team Fishel decided to take a look at the efficiency and effectiveness of its work crews. The report concluded that if at the end of each day the job foreman took 24 minutes to gather with the team, quickly go over the plan for the next day, state the goals, and make sure they had all the tools necessary ready to go, productivity would increase by 5 percent. A 5 percent increase in productivity would lead to a 50 percent increase in profitability.
A small purposeful break would have an enormous impact. It allowed them to make a good company even better.
On that same note, for over 10 years, I was honored to lead more than 1,700 people to construct 125 houses for families living in poverty in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Each year, I talked to the foremen of each building team about the importance of a purposeful break. I encouraged them to, halfway through each day, put down their tools and gather their team. I encouraged them to sit on the ground in a circle and take a rest, and ask two questions of the group:
- How do you feel about what we’re doing?
- What do you think we ought to do next?
Team members would begin to share why they even chose to come on this trip, what they were feeling about the family we were building the house for, and why they were determined to do the job well. Then they went back to work renewed.
Without fail, every time I explained the concept to team leaders, there was always a group that was skeptical. They thought it was grossly inefficient. They couldn’t imagine how they could stop working “just to talk.”
In the end, though, the teams whose leaders bought into the purposeful break philosophy had a dramatic outcome. Almost every year my group finished our project a good couple of hours to a half-day ahead of the others. (And it had nothing to do with my very average construction abilities!)
Every time the team stepped back to refocus and realign our priorities and job duties, we moved forward. The purposeful break launched us closer to our goal in a much more productive way than “just working.”
I invite you to consider these questions:
- When do you take a purposeful break for yourself?
- When do you take them with the key people in your life at home?
- When do you take them with your team at work?
Pause. Regroup. Then bring action.
Jason Barger is the globally celebrated author of Step Back from the Baggage Claim, ReMember, and the newly released book Thermostat Cultures, as well as a coveted keynote speaker and leadership consultant. More importantly, he’s striving to be an above average father, husband, and friend.
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