Simple, practical, applicable
Mindful Mondays: What Songs Are On Your Mindfulness Playlist? May 20 2013 no responses
Music can have a powerful impact on mindfulness. Certain songs or genres can be totally distracting or annoying while others set you up to remember why you do what you do as a leader.
Likewise, there are distracting and annoying things about smartphones and there are also very useful things about the devices. One of those is the capacity they give you to carry around a mindfulness playlist in your pocket. Having one can be very useful when you need some help in refocusing on a more mindful approach to leadership and life.
As an example, there are three songs on my mindfulness playlist that I come back to again and again.
Seven Tips for Taming Your Calendar May 16 2013 one response
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called Five Ways to Get Your Calendar Under Control. Since then, I’ve used it as the starting point for a conversation among high potential leaders in our Next Level Leadership® group coaching program. The framing questions for the group about the post are:
- What do you already do or agree with?
- What do you disagree with?
- What other calendar control ideas work for you?
As the inflow becomes heavier and the expectations become higher, taming the calendar beast is a common challenge for leaders. Here are seven of the best ideas I’ve heard lately from leaders who are figuring out how to leverage their time to get important stuff done:
Mindful Mondays – Breathe to Relax May 13 2013 no responses
If you’ve been following Mindful Mondays, you know that I’m a big fan of stretching and breathing. As I mentioned in this video, combining the two can be a quick and effective way to take a break that pushes the reset button on your brain.
Of course, you may want to take a quick break by focusing on one or the other. If I had to pick one to start with, it would be breathing. Obviously, we all do it and, because we do, it’s always available as a resource for slowing things down enough to step back, relax and reset your perspective.
There’s a big difference, though, between regular and mindful breathing. If you have a smartphone, there’s a terrific app you can download called Breathe to Relax that will help you feel the difference. The app was created by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology which is a unit of the Department of Defense focused on “employing emerging technologies in support of psychological health and traumatic brain injury recovery in the military.”
It’s definitely worth the download and the two minutes of your time it would take to use it everyday. With a couple of screen touches, Breathe to Relax will set you up with a easy to do breathing routine that will make a positive difference in your stress level and capacity to focus mindfully on what’s next.
Check it out and let me know what you think.
Why Leaders Need to Be Indifferent May 9 2013 6 responses
A couple of months ago, I was talking with an executive leader I’ve known for a few years. One of the things I’ve noticed about him in that time is that his confidence has grown in a very appropriate and admirable way. I mentioned this to him and, in reply, he laughed softly and said, “It’s a fine line between confidence and indifference.”
That’s one of the best lines I’ve heard in recent memory because it’s funny and it’s true. Like most things that are funny, there’s an element of truth and recognition to it. The connection between confidence and indifference is that the right amount of indifference can lead to confidence. And the confidence that comes from indifference makes you a more effective leader.
Here’s what I mean by that:
Mindful Mondays – Choose Your Word for the Week May 6 2013 no responses
The ancient Greeks had a word called praxis which is the root of our modern day English words, practical and practice. Aristotle described the end goal of praxis as action. When he wrote about praxis, one of his points was that if you want to be a certain way, start acting that way.
The idea of praxis came to mind when I was in a class last weekend and the teacher suggested at the beginning that everyone hold the intention of being gentle with themselves. At a break, I was talking with another student who commented how differently she approached the learning with the concept of being gentle with herself in mind.
That simple concept of holding a state of being in mind while you go about your daily actions can change the results you create as a leader.
Four Tips for Talking with the CEO May 2 2013 no responses
Does the thought of a brief conversation with the top executive in your organization stir up the butterflies in your stomach? If it does, you’re not alone. It’s basically a form of corporate stage fright that lots of people experience.
Over the years, I’ve had lots of conversations with both rising leaders and those that are already at the top of their organizations. The ones that are well intentioned want the same thing – the information and engaged people they need to lead a successful organization. That common ground can set you up for a brief but meaningful conversation with your CEO when the opportunity presents itself.
With that as a starting point, here are four tips for talking with the CEO:
Mindful Mondays – What I Learned About Perfectionism from Yoga April 29 2013 one response
The best coaching question I was ever asked was about 15 years ago when a woman who was coaching me while I was a corporate VP asked, “What would it take for you to stop judging yourself?”
That question hit me like a ton of bricks because it cut to the quick of my perfectionism and feeling like I never measured up to my own expectations. I’d like to be able to report that I was immediately transformed by the question and it was all sunshine and roses from there. That wasn’t the case, but, by raising the question, my coach succinctly framed something for me to work on for the next fifteen years.
Last week, during a yoga class, I realized that I still have opportunities here. You could say that I have a way to go before I perfect not being a perfectionist. Guessing that I may not be the only person reading (or writing) this post who’s a perfectionist, here’s an update on how I’m doing and what I’m noticing. There might be a point or two here that will resonate with you.
Three Ways to Know What You Need to Know April 25 2013 one response
A big part of my job as a coach is delivering colleague feedback summaries to my executive coaching clients. Sometimes the feedback is hard for them to hear. I have sympathy for them. I was once a corporate executive and, in one particular case, got some blistering 360 feedback that had me licking my wounds for a month or two before I finally gathered up the gumption to act on it.
My own experience with tough feedback makes it relatively easy for me to ask my clients having the same experience, “Would you rather know or not know?” The best leaders would rather know. They understand that you can’t fix it if you don’t know about it.
Top people often don’t get to hear what they need to hear. For valid or imaginary reasons, the people in their organization often are afraid to share tough or bad news so they hold back on speaking the truth or spin it when they do. The result is problems that could have been avoided or corrected, disengagement and clueless leaders.
To be an effective leader, you have to choose to know. Here are three ways to make sure you get to know what you need to know:
Mindful Mondays: Presence in Boston When It Mattered Most April 22 2013 2 responses
What a week it was for the city of Boston. It’s hard to believe that the citizens there went from the attack at the Boston Marathon to a citywide lockdown as police hunted for the surviving suspect to the celebratory singing of Sweet Caroline with Neil Diamond himself in an afternoon game at Fenway Park all within the span of five days. When I wrote about the resilience of Bostonians last week, I had no clue just how resilient they would prove to be.
There are so many leadership lessons to be learned from the Boston experience. The medical personnel and first responders on the day of the blast were amazing. Every victim who initially survived the explosions was saved. (Read this story by Atul Gawande for example after example of mindful leadership in Boston’s hospitals.) The coordination between local, state and Federal agencies was equally impressive. Their leaders kept everyone focused on a common goal. The public officials like Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and Boston police commissioner Edward Davis were role models for leaders who need to keep people informed in a high stakes, rapidly changing situation.
There was a lot of mindful leadership in Boston last week, but what stands out for me the most was the leadership of the average citizens who tended to the victims in the moments just after the blasts. We’ve heard story after story of brave and compassionate people who provided critical first aid to the victims or simply sat or laid down with injured strangers to talk calmly with them, stroke their hair or do whatever they could to comfort them until help arrived.
Those people were fully and mindfully present with other human beings who desperately needed them to be. In many cases, their presence was literally life saving as it kept the victims from going into shock.
Fortunately, we’re not often called to be mindful and present in literal life and death situations. But, doesn’t it make you wonder how different life and work might be if each of us brought some fraction of that amount of mindful presence to every interaction we have with another person? What would it take to put down the smart phone or turn away from the computer and really tune into the other person?
There are three ways I can think of to make a start. Have the intention to be present. Take a deep breath to transition from whatever had your attention a moment ago. Make eye contact with the other person.
Where would you start? What would it take for you to follow through on that idea?
A Boston Marathon Memory and Hope April 18 2013 one response
There’s little I can add to what’s already been observed about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon this week. The horror, the heroism and the heartache will stay for a long time with everyone who experienced or witnessed it.
What I want to add to the conversation is my own memory of running the Marathon with my friend Tiffany when we were both graduate students in Boston back in 1987 and how that memory gives me hope today.
In those days, you were allowed to run in the back of the Boston pack with an unofficial number if you weren’t one of the qualified entrants. That’s where Tiffany and I were.
At the very front of the pack was a Boston legend named Johnny Kelley. He was the Marathon winner in 1935 and 1945. On that Patriot’s Day morning in 1987, he was 79 years old and preparing to run his 56th Boston Marathon. Being the legend that he was, Kelley was given the honor of being first off the starting line in Hopkinton, Mass with a healthy head start on the world class runners who were competing for the win.
About four miles into the race, Tiffany and I were cruising along at around a 7:30 minute a mile pace – way below the nine minute a mile pace we had planned to run. We looked over to our left and there was Johnny Kelley methodically running with his escort. We were thrilled to see him and waved and shouted, “Hi Mr. Kelley! Have a great race!” He gave us a slight nod as we ran past him.
So things were pretty great for Tiffany and me as we ran through Natick, past the women of Wellesley College and they were still pretty good as we crested Heartbreak Hill. It was on the downhill that my wheels came off. About three miles from the finish line, I hit the proverbial wall. (Tiffany, to her everlasting credit, did not.) As I was plodding my way to the finish I looked to my right and there was Johnny Kelley passing me back as if he was out on an easy jog. My 26 year old self had just been lapped by a 79 year old man.
It took me a few years to realize that it was an honor to get beat by Johnny Kelley in the Boston Marathon. That man, who passed away in 2004 at the age of 97, represents the indomitable spirit of the people of Boston. They’re down this week and, in our own small and indirect ways, we share their pain. But, just like Johnny Kelley, they’ll be back and blow past whoever was responsible for this week’s terror. That’s what resilient people like Bostonians do.