Guest Column | August 30, 2017

Labor Day, Leadership, And Leveraging A Moment Of Pause

By Liz Bywater, Ph.D.


The U.S. Department of Labor website describes Labor Day as “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” Today’s workers continue to bring tremendous value to society, in the U.S. and abroad — spending long, productive hours in the workplace and often continuing the pace at home.

It is somehow fitting then, that Labor Day provides a brief respite from the rigor and intensity of daily work demands. It is an opportunity to relax and enjoy one final summer weekend at the beach or a low-key gathering with friends. It is a well-deserved moment of pause before launching into the energy and activity of Fall.

While healthcare doesn’t take the summer off, the transition into fall still is a great time to slow down and take a strategic pause in the daily busyness of leading your organization. I write at length about strategic pauses in my forthcoming book, Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed and Thrive in a 24/7 World (available November 2017). Here’s how you can apply the concept today:

In today’s dynamic healthcare climate, leaders operate under an unprecedented amount of pressure. Decisions must be made quickly, sometimes without sufficient time to gather and synthesize the needed inputs from key stakeholders. There is often too little time to thoughtfully strategize and take a proactive approach, as the pressure to achieve short-term results can overshadow attention to long-term planning.

Whether you sit at the helm of a local hospital or large pharmaceutical company, run a clinical research organization, guide patient safety, or drive the commercial launch of powerful new medical treatments, chances are, you’re working faster and making more rapid-fire decisions than ever before.

Amid this climate of extreme busyness and pressure, I advise my clients to deliberately take a step away — allowing time to engage in meaningful, uninterrupted reflection. This is a chance to catch one’s breath and clearly strategize the best approach to the day, week, quarter and beyond.

The Labor Day transition into fall is perfect timing for a strategic pause. As you approach the coming season, block out time to reflect on your goals and those of your team and organization. Consider:

  • How will we address short-term priorities without losing sight of our longer-term objectives?
  • Am I leading my team, department and company in a way that leverages diverse talents, meets the needs of our customers, drives the industry, and commands the market?
  • What information do I need — from my team, colleagues, industry leaders and best customers — to make stellar strategic decisions now and in the coming year?
  • How will I consistently reserve time each day, week, month and year for strategic thinking and thoughtful decision making?

Use these prompts to guide your thinking, take notes as you go, and bring this process to your team. Set aside time in the coming weeks to review, discuss, debate and align. Together, identify your most important goals. Create a plan, identify who is accountable for specific actions, and develop a cadence of ongoing communication.

Guide your organization to function as a proactive, strategic “Slow Down to Speed Up” workplace that fosters innovation and growth for a successful today and a brilliant tomorrow.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Dr. Liz on Leadership. Each month, I will share new ideas, tools and advice to help you thrive in today’s ever-changing healthcare environment. Let me know what’s top of mind and I’ll answer your most pressing questions in future columns. Contact me at

For additional tools and thought leadership, check out my all-new website, And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed, and Thrive in a 24/7 World!