A 2 x 2 Can Make You a Better Leader, ESPECIALLY in a Crisis

Will YOU accept the 2 x 2 Challenge?

If you are a healthcare leader, the Covid-19 Crisis has thrust you and your team into uncharted territory. As we talk with healthcare leaders across the US, we continue to be impressed with and inspired by your courage and resourcefulness and humbled by the steadfast commitment of caregivers who are so bravely and compassionately fighting this at the frontlines.

We hear many stories of duty, responsibility, long hours, exhaustion and devoting little, if any, time to self-care. “I just don’t have the time right now” is a common refrain. In this prolonged period of stress, and with all the critical issues you are confronting now, it is important to be at your best. I’d like to suggest a very simple practice that you and your team members can employ to quickly boost your focus and resilience. I’ve been suggesting it to leaders as a coaching homework assignment and have been employing it personally with positive results.

I call it a 2 x 2 (two by two) – simply making space for two minutes of silence twice a day. While I’d love to see you take more time for yourself, there’s some science behind my suggestion of at least two minutes.

So, why two minutes? 

Studies have shown that as little as two minutes of silence can be highly beneficial to our brains and our bodies. It can help you to sustain energy, reduce stress and tension and restore the nervous system, enabling you to feel calmer, more focused and to think more clearly and creatively. It helps to replenish your mental resources.

An amazing return for a small investment… and you’re worth it!

Other benefits of silence include:
  • Improved self-awareness – you will likely notice a shift in your ability to be more self-aware and to be more intentional about how you show up with others and how you respond to the environment.
  • As you move into a calmer state, you are able to access the more complex, higher-order thinking functions of the brain, resulting in better clarity, decision making and more creative problem-solving.
  • Silence can help condition your mind to be more agile, adaptive and responsive to the complex environment (i.e. learning agile).
  • Calming the brain’s threat response also reduces the release of stress hormones, lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
  • You will be able to be more connected to your inner thoughts, memories and emotions and more able to recognize connections between things.

A recent study led by Imke Kirste, PhD, PMP, at Duke University Medical School, found that silence is also associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory.

Silence is healing, regenerative and accessible to all of us. I hope you’ll accept this 2 x 2 challenge and make a commitment to carve out this tiny, yet so important, amount of time for yourself during your work day. It’s a great place to start and you can build from there.

“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.” – Rumi

“Silence is a source of great strength.” – Lao Tzu

Sources: The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time by Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz, Harvard Business Review, March 17, 2017
Kathy Gibala
About the author

Kathy Gibala is a leadership coach and strategic advisor with 25 years of healthcare industry experience encompassing leadership, consultant and operations management roles with premier academic medical centers, non-profit health systems, and hospitals.
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