What do mindfulness and organizational change have in common? More than you might think.
Last week at The 2019 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat, I closed the retreat with my keynote, Your Organization Is Ready, Are You?, discussing how executives can build their “strategic leadership” skills—the ability to handle complex problems for which there is no obvious short-term solution. Strategic leaders can transform organizations in a complex environment.
The good news is that strategic leadership skills can be learned and improved. There are new techniques for “building” strategic leadership muscle — by practicing specific executive behaviors, visualization, and meditation are a part of that process.
At our retreat, we had executives focus on building their mindfulness skills in a session, Mind Full Or Mindful? Tools & Techniques For Decluttering The Busy Leader’s Mind, led by Harriet Stein, President of Big Toe in the Water. She explained the mindfulness construct as having complete awareness with non-judgment, and giving your full attention to the present moment (see Institute For Mindful Leadership: Definitions). As Ms. Stein explained:
Mindfulness is about paying attention on purpose to the present moment with non-judgment. It is a practice of compassion. What it really comes down to is the idea that we need to be aware of what is going on in our thoughts. Having a “beginner’s mind” allows you to see every day as a new day, and every moment as a fresh moment.
Practicing mindfulness has nine elements related to one’s daily practice including acceptance, letting go, beginner’s mind, non-striving, gratitude, generosity, patience, non-judging, and trust. It is easy to learn and doesn’t require a significant time commitment. The practices can be easily integrated into your daily tasks and routines—and provide some immediate results (see Meditation, Mindfulness And Executive Control: The Importance Of Emotional Acceptance And Brain-Based Performance Monitoring, How Meditation Benefits CEOs, and Mindfulness For Executives). Ms. Stein noted:
You can bring awareness to your morning rituals and check in with your breathing; notice your commute to work and monitor tension throughout your body; take short breaks and go outside, even if it’s only for a few minutes; and bring awareness to the process as you leave work and re-enter your home.
For executives, mindfulness can mean the difference between rushing to make a choice that leads to failure versus thoughtfully making an informed-decision that leads to better performance (see Transforming Leaders Into Mindful Leaders). In the session, Ms. Stein discussed the five qualities that the practice of mindfulness enhances for leaders and executives—self-awareness, compassion, focus, responsiveness, and nonjudgment.
Self-awareness—Mindfulness practice can bring an increased sense of self to leaders and executives. A self-aware leader can better recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and take the necessary steps to prevent weaknesses from affecting the organizational environment. Humility is a key component within this. While the best leaders are able to celebrate their successes, they are also able to learn from their failures (see The Best Leaders Are The Best Learners).
Compassion—By consistently bringing yourself to the present moment, compassion also improves with practice. And compassion is critical for leaders who are seeking to build a strong, collaborative team environment. Mindful communication with others not only enhances your ability to listen and learn, it better enables you to communicate your own vision and plans to others (see Communicate Like A Leader).
Focus—The practice of mindfulness also allows you to have the space to think, which is a major key in any leader’s strategic thinking. By giving yourself the space to think, mental clarity and focus improve, which in turn, leads to enhanced decisionmaking. This is key for the busy executive who has an endless list of deadlines, back-to-back meetings, and financial concerns, all of which place an intense demand on time, and can be physically and emotionally draining (see The Executive Body Is Business Relevant).
Responsiveness—Responsiveness is a critical skill for any leader, but particularly for a leader in the health and human service space. In a rapidly changing environment, executives must be ready to respond to the new challenges and circumstances they face as the environment around them changes (see Don’t Just Sit There: Change!). The practice of mindfulness allows you to stay focused in the present moment, rather than being stuck in the past or anxious about the future.
Nonjudgment—Mindfulness doesn’t mean you have to change who you are, but rather, understand and accept yourself and others with the compassion you cultivate by staying focused in the present moment. The practice of mindfulness better enables you to overcome negative thoughts by noticing how you feel, as well as noticing the story you tell yourself. A nonjudgmental environment provides leaders and front-line staff with the setting and resources to achieve their goals, and do their best work (see Embrace The Chaos With Servant Leadership).
If you haven’t thought about incorporating mindfulness, meditation, and visualization into how you prepare to address the stressful issues of the day, this would be one more resource to add to your executive toolkit.
For more on leadership and the practice of mindfulness, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Circle Library:
- Mind Full Or Mindful?
- Are You Practicing Mindfullness
- The Executive Body Is Business Relevant
- The Personality Side Of Leadership
- How “Fit” Is Your Executive Athlete?
- Are You An Extraordinary Boss?
- Embrace The Chaos With Servant Leadership
- The ‘Big Five’ Manager Skills
- Don’t Just Sit There: Change!
- “Manage Things, Lead People”
And for more on leadership and innovation, join me on October 30 at The 2019 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute where I will present “Innovation, Integration & Virtual Care: How To Build A Digital Strategy To Compete With The New Market Disruptors.”