The 5 Second Rule Can Work Both Ways

Inhale, exhale

I had the recent experience of finding myself in two situations in a single day that were so alike I had to look carefully at WTF was going on.

Specifically, I had tense moments with two separate employees that each left me wondering if my management style needs adjusting.  Did I react to both of these circumstances with similar, over-the-top intensity?  Should I have taken a deep breath before responding?

Well, let’s look at what happened.  Roughly, here were the scenarios:

  • My assistant’s customer service was not according to protocols I would have chosen, and could potentially lead to inefficiencies.
  • A technician became frustrated with a web design process and I could immediately see he was attempting to address the problem in a way that would lead to more issues.

Both these moments quickly exploded into stressful exchanges, with me telling my team members they were wrong, and them (understandably) becoming defensive.

Pretty much immediately, I saw how nuts this tension had become.  What a waste of energy when all we were doing was trying to communicate!

Efficiency vs. empathy

As a leader, it’s not a failing on my part to want the most efficient operation possible in my business.  On the other hand, it’s really important for me to be empathetic regarding the needs of others around me and to respect their initiatives.

My dreams of perfection sometimes clash with what my heart knows!

Leadership vs. team dynamics

Also, I’m the boss.  Which means that I’ve most likely already been in almost every situation that comes up in my business.  That is, I am the one with the global perspective.  I have the 30,000-foot view so I can easily see what’s necessary at any given point, and why a certain response will be inadequate.  But it is not possible to convey all that knowledge quickly to others so they get where I’m coming from.

The result: abrupt comments from me that can be taken as put-downs.


Can I manage to always see things from the other person’s point of view, and avoid coming across as micro-managing?  Well, I can aim for that but let’s face it, I’m no saint.

But there is something I can do, if I practice.  I can take a pause.

I can practice taking a deep breath whenever a disconnect between me and a co-worker occurs, stepping back to assess the big picture before plunging in to fix things.

In that small moment of suspended animation, I can consider where my team member is coming from, alongside my own perspective.  I can create a truly efficient way forward for us both.

Just by pausing, quietly thinking, and breathing in the moment, enormous possibilities can be realized!

But what about the 5 second rule?

Isn’t pausing to take a breath literally the opposite of the 5 second rule?  I still believe that responding to inspiration without hesitation is a great way to learn and grow.  This new way of thinking is why I’ve been having such a magical year.  The difference here is that quick action works when I’m inspired; but if I’m irritated, that’s my cue to take it slow.

Mike Wozniak

About the author

For more than 30 years, Mike Wozniak has used his passion for finding innovative ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of businesses through the use of technology to redefine the way things are done. Mike is the founder of, a cutting-edge software licensing technology provider, and the inventor of ArrivalOS™ and EnRoute™ by Floqque, a Predictive Queuing Platform. When he isn't working, he likes to travel and do burpees! Why do burpees on vacation? Just Because He Can!

Mike Wozniak

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}