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Practicing Mindful Leadership

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Summer is one of the best times as a leader to develop a deeper awareness and practice around mindfulness.  Through vacation, slower workloads, a reduction in family demands at home with kids on break from school and sports schedules, not to mention the energy that sunshine and warmer weather brings.  This slower pace is a perfect time to develop new leadership skills and habits to carry into the busier parts of the year ahead. I found myself staring at my iPhone and thinking through the gifts and challenges of this life-changing device at a leadership workshop recently on the culture of “busyness”.  It’s amazing what comes to you with a little focused contemplation time in our world of busy.  We reflected on our smart phones for just a few minutes on questions like: How does it benefit your life and the lives of others? Have you ever noticed their finer, more intricate details? Have you thought about what life might be without these things? How does it make life more challenging?  By taking a few minutes to reflect on this object and the gifts and challenges it brings, I was able to gain awareness of my habits around busyness and make decisions in how I want to be more present. Moving away from a culture of busyness and towards a culture of intention, awareness, ownership and mindfulness.

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment.  Mindful leaders are able to recognize what’s bubbling up inside them (their emotions) and as a result keep them under control in stressful situations by making conscious rather than reactive choices.  They are aware of the impact they have on those around them.  They are in tune with their team and have greater intuition simply because they take the time to listen to with their ears and intuition moment by moment.  They are able to connect how decisions today impact the bigger picture and the future ahead.  Mindful leaders are mentally present in a way that allows them to make choices and decisions aligned with their values and those of the organization.

Cultivating a mindfulness practice isn’t easy in our world of busyness and even harder for leaders who are often requested to be always “on” and have open door policies that invite interruption at all times.

A few strategies that will support you in practicing mindfulness:

  • Quiet your mind – Meditation, journaling, relaxation, and reflection.  Finding 10 minutes of quiet mental space each day.
  • Eating breakfast and lunch - It’s hard to be mindful when you mind is hungry.  Quiet your body; fuel your mind. (P.S. coffee doesn’t count as breakfast).
  • Exercise – Even a 10 minute walk make substantial impact in quieting your mind and increasing your self-awareness.
  • Protect uninterrupted thinking time in your schedule.
  • Set your intention for feedback – Take a few moments before giving someone feedback to check your intention.
  • Prepare for meetings – Give yourself at least a few quiet minutes to prepare your thoughts for each meeting.
  • The 50 minute meeting – End meetings 10 minutes early so you and others going to a next meeting have mental space to refresh and regroup.

The benefits of cultivating a mindfulness practice? There are many including: Reduced stress and increased resilience to the challenges life and business bring your way.  Deeper clarity and understanding about what is important to you, your team, and the world around you. The ability to clear away worries about unimportant things so you can think clearly and focus on what is important. Nurture passion for your work and empathy for others. Greater connection to your purpose and values allowing you to empower and engage your team. And lastly, tap into your creativity; a quiet mind is a creative mind!

What is the one mindfulness habit you’ll be practicing this summer to enhance your leadership?

LeadershipJenn Lofgren