Fortunately I was not watching the British middleweight title fight in London at the weekend - but I have been following the debate over when the fight should have stopped. According to Chris Eubank Senior he would have stopped the fight if his son had been in Blackwell’s position even if it would “alienate his son for life”. I imagine that the opponents themselves, their trainers, family, doctors, referee and the audience might all have different views about the right time to stop a fight depending on their own perspective and experience.
Whether you’re cooking, painting, writing, training or leading a team, knowing when to stop can be quite a skill. Effective leaders seem to know when to stop talking, checking in, waiting for more information or working on a particular project and while it’s relatively easy to spot when someone should have stopped doing something, we often don’t notice when someone stops at the right time.
Here are a few suggestions to help experiments with stopping something
Have a clear outcome and boundaries in mind. The clearer you are about the end result you want, the easier it is to know when you have achieved it and can stop. It also helps to understand any rules or boundaries relating to this. What don’t you want to happen?
Apply the law of diminishing returns. That final 20% effort might not add much value and it could actually diminish the impact /outcome of what you’re doing. Whether it’s too many colours on the paining, too much seasoning in a casserole, diluting a bold statement by restating it in multiple ways or delaying completion with additional analysis.
Ask for feedback. Recognise that you might be too close to the situation to judge. Ask for feedback and give your team and stakeholders different ways of letting you know how you’re doing – is the job complete to your stakeholder’s expectations even if not to your own? is the person you think you are “supporting” feeling micro-managed?
Gain perspective. If you can, step away from whatever you’re doing for a while. Take a walk. Go for a run. Work on something else. Sleep on it. Then come back to the task and look at it with fresh eyes. Ask yourself what needs to happen to finish according to your original plan?
Practice stopping. If your tendency is to get into too much detail, talk for too long, or over-worry about things - experiment with stopping before you’re comfortable. When in doubt, give yourself a deadline or time limit - and stick to it.
Mine is now.