You’ve seen The Mindful Revolution on the cover of Time. You’ve heard about the studies. People in your office talk about meditation and Yoga. What does all this have to do with work? Everything.
What would your productivity look like if you could complete your next project in 70% less time? That is the percentage of employees in the U.S. who are not engaged in their work according to Gallup. Odds are that some of the 70% work for you.
While corporate training is a $70 billion industry in the U.S., mindfulness programs are flourishing organically from the inside. Stress prompted Janice Marturano, former deputy general counsel at General Mills, to create a mindfulness program at the company. It was so popular that she left to start her own institute. There are 500 employees on the waiting list at Google for the class “Search Inside Yourself” originated by Chade-Meng Tan, a Google engineer who now teaches mindfulness full time.
Mindfulness is accepting what is without judgment. What does that mean? It is a particular way of paying attention to what is going on in your head and around you from a third-party perspective without getting carried away by it. It keeps you from judging, reliving the past or anxiously fast forwarding to the future.
The brain is just like a muscle. It grows with practice. We build mindfulness with mindful daily practices such as a mindful walk where we don’t replay a prior conversation in our head, but notice the flowers, sky, and environment of the surroundings. Other practices include meditation, crafts, physical activity, slowly appreciating a cup of your favorite tea or any other activity where your mind is still and you are present in the moment.
Mindful leadership is setting the stage to accept the present while inspiring strategy for a meaningful. vision. Mindful leaders create no-blame environments, inclusive work places, and thriving cultures that makes a difference. They don’t perseverate on the current bad results hoping for a miracle. They learn from them and rebuild early before all is lost.
Great leaders manage themselves as much as they manage others. Their self-regulation stops them from pre-judging, closing off to innovation, being reactive. It opens them to making sound real-time decisions. They show compassion. They notice when someone is posturing instead of feeling threatened. They resolve conflict with deep listening so they may collaboratively seek common ground. They remove their ego from the conversation. They risk being seen authentically without the doubt of failure. And they don’t make fear based decisions disguised as practicality.
Be you-smart first – What’s in the way?
Self-awareness is key to mindful leadership. Assessments such as 360 Evaluations, DISC and MBTI are a good place to start. But that is just the beginning. Self-regulating in the moment builds with the ability to non-judgmentally notice your thoughts and behaviors before the ego interjects. This starts simply with noticing the pattern of your breathing without allowing your mind to stray – basic yet challenging for the multitasking mind.
Notice what makes you anxious and accept how that clouds your decisions. “I notice I am being defensive and am not judging myself. I am a good listener.” If you can’t name and sit with what haunts you how can you help others face what holds them back? “May I be gentle with myself in this moment.” You can build your self-awareness with this free eBook “Be the New SMART Leader.”
We listen in three ways: 1) to insert our opinion once the other person takes a breath, 2) to formulate a solution before the other person can even finish talking, or 3) for the sake of understanding. The latter is deep listening. Leaders build on this by making the other person feel heard. “What I hear you saying is that you doubt whether or not we can succeed and that scares you.” Next time you are in conflict with someone, deep listen until they stop talking. Don’t interrupt. (That’s where mindfulness pays off.) Ask them to tell you more. Then validate back what you heard and what was inferred. ‘I bet that’s frustrating.’ Trust evolves and collaboration builds.
Mindfulness is a skill for all aspects of life. Mindful leadership is not about what you do but who you are no matter where you are seated at the table. When you show your team you care about them as much as the project, watch what happens to productivity.
Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be more calm and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at www.MaryLeeGannon.com.