Leadership Excellence - March 2012 - page 8

the amount, I seldom come across a
leader who isn’t drawn to the concept
of taking back many of the moments
that get lost in work.
Three Mindful Leader Practices
To practice mindfulness as a leader,
try three core practices:
1. Intentionally anchor your mind to
the present moment.
Being in a state of
purposeful intention
can be challenging
when the environment constantly gives
you cues to fall back into automatic
work routines. Being mindful requires
a disciplined practice of anchoring the
mind in the present moment.
• Anchoring through breathing.
be attentive to your breathing. Relaxed,
full breathing in which the diaphragm
expands during inhalation and con-
tracts during exhalation results in
tremendous performance and health
benefits associated with mindfulness.
• Anchoring through the five senses.
Focus on the five senses and take a
break from your inner conversations to
reset your mind. A byproduct of our
abstract and sophisticated communica-
tion is that we tend to become over-
focused on language and images, at
times causing sub-optimal results.
Anchoring to the present can happen
by paying distinct attention to sights,
sounds, and physical sensations.
Worrying about a past or future
event is very different than
problem solving
. If the outcome of
your mental process is
you’re likely worrying. If the outcome
is a list of
, you are
likely planning or problem solving.
2. Notice what is happening without
judging it.
Non-judgment or
means accepting the current state as
part of a constant flow of changing
experiences. Letting go of judgment
strengthens the mind, and challenges
the belief that over-thinking something
Mindful Leader
stress the need to
do more with less, one
of the strongest themes I see is an
increase in work complexity and load.
As one participant in the Case
Western Executive Education program
reported: “My typical workday goes
like this:
Check email
, check calendar, go
to meetings, run reports,
check email
, write a communication and
more email
. Since many tasks are repeat-
ed, I do them on autopilot, without
engaging any part of my brain that
involves attention or focus.” While we
all spend much of our lives in autopi-
lot, the ability to step out of the auto-
matic patterns once in a while requires
effort, or present centered awareness.
Doing more with less is challenging
in these settings, since leaders tend to
respond by engaging work routines
that have helped them get through
intense spikes of work in the past. This
hinders learning new ways to adapt
and eventually results in a pattern in
As a leader, your mind is your great-
est asset.
So, be strategic in how you
use your greatest asset. You can use
specific techniques to improve your
mindfulness; and when taught in an
environment that integrates leading
brain research and sound leadership
theory, mindfulness can be a game-
changer for business leaders.
What Is Mindfulness?
The following definition of mindful-
ness informs leader development:
Mindfulness is a state in which a person is
intentionally aware of momentary experi-
Practicing mindfulness enhances
mental and physical health, creativity,
and contextual learning.
The opposite,
, is often
described as being unaware, focused
on the future or past, or being on
. Living mindlessly can result in
tunnel vision, stress, unintentional
behaviors, poor physical health, low
creativity, and difficulty navigating
complex systems. How much of what
you have done in the last 24 hours was
intentional and purposeful? Whatever
helps control it. While leaders are paid
to master problems and navigate obsta-
cles, there is a big difference between
mindlessly judging
mindfully think-
. When we judge mindlessly, we let
what we are experiencing dictate our
mental and emotional states, often
without being aware of it, and always
without being intentional about it. In
executive education programs, I ask:
“Should your emotional state fluctuate
based on the events that happen during
the day?” No leaders raise their hands.
Then I ask: “How many of you let your
emotional states fluctuate based on
events that happen throughout the
day?” This question always results in a
sea of hands raised, and chuckles.
Traditional cognitive techniques tend
to encourage
replacing thoughts;
er simply acknowledging
you are thinking, without reacting to it,
enables you to redirect your mind to
what you want to focus on. Try practic-
ing acceptance of whatever you are
experiencing in the moment by letting
go of evaluation and judgment. It will
enable you to act intentionally.
3. Analyze your environment mind-
Being mindful
paying partic-
ular attention to situational contexts
means thinking in black
and white about something, hence
reducing its complexity and making
errors. Amindful approach to analyz-
ing the environment requires seeking
new sources of information and placing
a value on doubt. Many cultures
reward expressions of certainty. This
incentivizes people to act more certain
than they may be in order to achieve
goals. Study the routines that dominate
you and your organization and find
new ways to
in those times.
I once asked leaders who participat-
ed in my
mindful leader programs
share the impact of the program back
at work. Here are a few responses:
“If I can’t control a situation, I accept it
and focus behavior on what I can control.”
I’m more present in my meetings.”
“I’m more aware of keeping an open
mind when speaking with direct reports.”
You can practice mindfulness any-
focus your mind
by finding
your unique way to intentionally
anchor yourself in the moment. Since
this is challenging, learn from a credi-
ble source. Practicing mindfulness is
leading your mind so that you can
purposefully lead others
. It is about
ing your best to work
, intentionally.
Bauback Yeganeh, Ph.D., is principal of Everidian, an
organizational effectiveness firm. Visit
or email
ACTION: Practice leadership mindfulness.
by Bauback Yeganeh
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