The Power of Pause in Decision-Making

Let me share a story: It was the end of July 2020. We were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and as CEO of Eosera, I was suddenly faced with the decision to voluntarily recall two of our eight products—a nightmare if there ever was one for a small biotech company.

Pausing before you react holds space for your integrity to speak to you. Find a way to listen.

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We’re a young company, about five years old, and three years with products on the market. December 2019 was nothing short of bliss for us. Things were running smoothly, sales were fabulous, and the problems I had then seem trivial and trite now. Alas, 2020 hit us hard like it did many businesses around the globe.

Never mind the supply chain issues we were experiencing due to COVID-19, there were bigger tribulations than delays in components. I recently had to lay off many manufacturing employees due to a miscommunication with a retailer that changed the volume of orders we anticipated to come in. Not to mention, my kids were stuck at home due to the virus. Living in Texas during a pandemic in the sweltering summer was nothing short of hellish (being hot and sad is just so much worse than being plain sad, in my opinion). Add on the fact that I have to make the most pivotal, stomach-turning decision I’ve ever made.

To recall or not to recall? That was the question.

You see, there was an unforeseen problem with our expiry dates. The products on the market subject to recall were completely safe for consumer use. They weren’t going to hurt anyone—that we were sure. Nevertheless, regulatory issues persisted and we had to do something.

I took the time to gather as much information as possible alongside the FDA. I carefully considered the outcomes of each option. The damage to the business, the lost profits, the damage to our reputation and the logistics of a recall. I truly had to pause and breathe every few minutes to collect myself as the world around me was literally crashing and burning (COVID-19, human rights riots, police brutality, the looming election—the list goes on). Weeks of sleepless nights and early mornings in the office were so routine they were rhythmic.

I didn’t have to recall the products; they were safe. But the more I processed; the more I reached out to mentors, advisors, trusted friends and colleagues; the more I tried to quiet my mind and weigh the options by journaling and meditation; the more I realized what I needed to do. It was then, during those pauses—those moments of insufferable, stagnant stillness—that I recognized what was right.

I had to recall. 

I share this story as an example to leaders about why it’s critical to pause when faced with a tough decision. Through this experience, I learned what pausing before reacting feels like and looks like. It’s taking the time to know yourself well enough to know your first reaction isn’t always the best reaction. It’s taking a step back from the situation and seeing it from as many angles as possible. It’s talking to trusted mentors and advisors. Most importantly, it comes down to doing the rightest thing—not the thing that is easiest, or kind of right, or morally gray but defendable. No. The rightest thing. Even when it hurts. Even when it turns you inside out, raw to the world. Even then.

Because then, when you’ve done the rightest thing, your morals and integrity are intact when everything else has imploded. Pausing before you react holds space for your integrity to speak to you. Find a way to listen.

In the end, we’re a better company for recalling. It hurt, but we learned and grew more than we ever could have without this experience. It was our rightest thing.

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Elyse Stoltz Dickerson

Elyse Stoltz Dickerson is CEO and co-founder of Eosera, Inc., an innovative biotech company that puts people before profit, always. Check out Eosera on social media at @EoseraInc.

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