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Brake, Reflect and Accelerate: The Power of Reset

As we bring you 2022's final episode of #OutsideInsights, Christmas is behind us, and the turn of year, less than a week. It is the time when most of you reading this have taken some time off to spend with family and friends. So let us at Two Roads start by wishing you and your loved ones the very best for the festive season and a very Happy and fulfilling 2023. 

For much of my career, I know that while I looked forward to this downtime, it was essentially an enforced one. My team and I relaxed because the markets wound down, financial year end in many parts of the world needed the books to close, and simply because there were fewer working days. We did not take a break because it was good for us, we took it because we had little choice. In short, we did the right thing, for the wrong reason. But as the years went by and my responsibilities increased, I discovered something that was to immeasurably improve the impact and quality of my leadership. And that is the insight I share in today's episode - the Power of the Reset Button.

Virat Kohli, arguably the greatest batsman of his generation, and a prolific run scorer, had not scored a century in any format of the sport for almost three years. In July 2022, he took a break. For the first time in ten years, Kohli did not pick up a bat for a month. When he came back into the team, he looked a transformed man. In an emotional interview on his return, he said:

'I came to the realization that I was kind of trying to fake my intensity a bit recently. Your body is telling you to stop. Mind is telling you to just take a break and step back. I have been looked at as a guy who is mentally very strong, and I am, but everyone has a limit, and you need to recognize that limit, otherwise things can get unhealthy for you.'

A few days after his return, someone close to the team told me cryptically: 'This is a different Virat.' Sure enough, his first century in any format since 2019, came just a couple of days later. Three months later, after a string of excellent scores, a supremely confident Kohli raised the bat to celebrate his 44th ODI hundred. The wait, for a man who had been the most prolific run-gatherer in modern cricket, had been an incredible 1214 days. A jaded, stressed, underachieving shadow of his former self just a few weeks before, Virat Kohli had well and truly hit the reset button.

The Power of Reset is just as crucial in business leadership as it is in elite sport. And that reset need not be left until breaking point like Kohli did. After all the reset switch doesn't come with a limitation on use. It can be effectively used at different points of time to achieve varied objectives.

Sophie Devonshire, the author of Superfast: Lead at Speed, talks about leaders taking time to 'strategically procrastinate' when the stakes are high. How often have you dashed off that caustic reply to an email or text late at night when your energy levels are at their lowest, only to regret it deeply in the light of day? I know I have. How many times have you felt under pressure to take a quick decision that's backfired only because you didn't pause to reflect for a few minutes or ask for a clarification that was easily obtained? Braking to reflect is not a delaying tactic. It is a demonstration of discipline. It is far from being a waste of time. Deliberating before we act, may just make that difference between success and failure. I call this the Art of Tactical Reset. 

The pandemic we have battled through these past 3-years has been eye opener for all of us. It has forced many to hit the reset button. I decided to use the forced lockdown to invest in my own health, something I had largely neglected through three decades of a high stress banking career. Losing friends and family well before their time, brought home the frailty of life. Groups of once close friends, long detached by forces of time and indifference, got together virtually and rediscovered the bonds that had once pulled them together. By forcing us apart physically, the pandemic brought us closer together. But that decision to press the Life Reset button was ours alone. And we discovered that we are richer for having done it.

But reset does not need to be accidental or forced. If there is anything the pandemic and other experiences should have taught us as leaders, it is the Criticality of Strategic Reset. The bigger the stakes on the table, the larger the businesses we run, the longer we are in charge, the more challenging our growth targets are, the more critical Strategic Reset becomes. 

Why does an Elite Sports team in the middle of a stressful tour take a day off to spend on the beach (or two to go fishing), even after a heartbreaking loss? Why does the CEO of a company that has a huge target to achieve, take a week off in the mountains? Why does a leadership team under tremendous pressure to deliver, leave the reigns in the hands of delegates and go off to a two-day Retreat at an Ashram (monastery)?

It is not because they are slacking off, or neglecting their responsibility. Quite the contrary. They are pressing the Strategic Reset button. They are Braking the speeding car they are on, because speed without strategy is a death wish. They are using the time to Reflect on what they are doing wrong, but much more importantly - what they are doing right, so they can do more of the same. Once this is done, the strategy is reset, and they are back in front of the wheel, they can Accelerate to victory.

But we don't need to be an Elite sportsperson, or CEO or senior leader to do the right thing. It is human to rest and recuperate. Indeed, it is essential we do so. As our colleagues at The Resilience Institute SEA often remind our clients, it is critical to 'combine hard work with smart rest'. 

So as we take a much deserved break, I invite all the friends, colleagues, clients and well wishers of Two Roads to join us in embracing the Power of Reset, as we Brake, Reflect and Accelerate towards an ever brighter future. May the force be with you.

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