Today’s post is the featured article from the January 2012 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

sojohn-newmewhat continued from the December 2011 Issue! With this issue of my e-newsletter, we commence a year marking a decade on The Front Porch. A lot has happened in that short decade … politically, socially, economically, globally and through technology. Email and the ability to “share files” were the technology craze at the time. Although forewarned, it was hard to imagine things moving faster and wider.

In 2002, social media, as we know it, did not exist.

It seemed our time to think was slipping away. Likewise, the time for our mind to ponder, wander and wonder was diminishing … fading into the history books as a practice of old. So 20th Century! It has been a decade of innovation even through one of the most difficult economies the world has likely experienced in modern times. But innovation is not perspective. The development of the new doesn’t provide us with the wisdom of the old. And it may, very well, keep us from it.

My purpose for The Front Porch has been the same ever since Volume 1, Number 1. The look and feel … and our ability to create a complete interface with my blog have changed along the way, but not the purpose. The purpose, issue after issue, has always been stated in the upper right-hand box … creating a place to step back, sit down and ponder the bigger picture of business and life. I thought the name we selected fit the purpose. Little did I know how much it would resonate with so many readers. Rarely, in follow-up emails and verbal feedback, has anyone referred to this newsletter as “your newsletter.” They always call it by name, as in “you really nailed it in your article in The Front Porch this month.” (Now, some of the feedback has not always been so gracious … but still references “the front porch!”)

I would like to think I am a marketing genius and the name just stuck … great branding you might say! But I am afraid that is not the case. I think it has more to do with the fact as busy professionals, parents, community leaders, friends and so forth … we are consciously or subconsciously hungry for reflection.

Possibly starving for perspective.

If the front porches, of yesteryear, across America could talk … we would hear some incredible stories. Gain some great insight. Those porches heard lots of conversations, hosted many celebrations, and welcomed many strangers. But if we listened more closely we would find they would also share the sound of silence. Silence interrupted by the sound of a creaking rocker or the soft grind of rusting chains supporting a porch-swing going back and forth … with a lone person quietly pondering in the rhythm of the slightly broken silence.

Today, we are all about productivity and efficiency. Getting it done. And we significantly invest in getting “better and better” at this. In reality, the results may very well be just the opposite. In this process, we may be losing the masterful art and skill of silence. It sounds kind of silly until you ask a group of successful executives to sit and do some reflection in complete silence for 10-minutes … and they simply can’t do it. So you might be thinking … so what is the big deal?

The big deal is that silence speaks!

You can call it meditation, prayer, listening for the inner voice … whatever you like. It is the voice of our conscious, the voice of heart. Writer D. Patrick Miller raised the red flag a few years back when he said, “If you can’t build five minutes of quiet time into your daily schedule … it is time to face the music … you’re losing your mind if not your soul.”

I’m not proposing we go on a six-month sabbatical. It is not about isolation, it is about integration. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, in their book The Power of Full Engagement, shared from their experience of training Olympic athletes. They stated our most productive rhythm is when we sprint and rest … sprint and rest. Not sprint forever, run forever, or even walk forever. It is sprint then rest … and repeat.

Often leaders will ask … so what do I “do” in the silence?

They usually hate the answer … nothing! Remember, silence speaks. It is the silence that does something. I realize, at first, this can be a bit much. So, to get started, it might be helpful to take a current challenge or the possibility of an upcoming opportunity into the silence and quietly think, ponder, mentally wander and wonder in that silence. My good friend and Master Certified Coach, Mary Jo Hazard, suggests starting the process by having a “go-to” list of questions you can always reference as you begin your silence. She recently shared with me 24 possibilities from her T-T-T-T (Take Time To Think) list of questions. There are many possibilities on the list: For example, #9 What would be a good but scary leap forward for me? … or #24 What and who am I grateful for at work? The question begins the process. Silence answers the question.

A strategy of silence is something every leader should demand of themselves … and of the teams they lead. Not together, but rather alone. It could be the most strategic process you could implement to achieve your stated business strategy. It is there, the Turning Points I mentioned in the December 2011 Issue of The Front Porch become clear.

Does any of this make sense to you? If not, it might eventually … if you simply take the confusion into your silence!