Three Things Mindful Leaders Do

Posted 08.12.2013

How are you feeling as the week begins? Is it a peaceful, easy feeling or something a bit more frantic than that?

If there is one common denominator I see in the leaders I work with across a range of industries it’s that most of them would check in on the more frantic and overwhelmed end of the spectrum than the peaceful and easy end of the scale.

The irony is that a bit more of the peaceful and easy approach can help lessen the frantic and overwhelmed feeling that a full calendar, inbox and to-do list can produce.  The answer lies in taking a more mindful approach to leadership.

If you’re interested, there are three easy things you can do each day to create a more mindful approach to leadership this week. They’re easy to remember because you’ve seen the reminder at railroad crossings for most of your life:  stop, look and listen.

Here’s one version of what stop, look and listen could look like in practice for a mindful leader:

Stop:  Take three to five minutes at least twice today to stop what you’re doing and step back. When you stop, take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth until you feel your belly button pulling towards your back. Do that two more times. If you need help remembering to stop, schedule a reminder in your calendar or use moments in your day, like waiting for a conference call to start, as triggers to stop and breathe.

Look:  Now that your mind is more settled from stopping to breathe, look at what’s going on. What’s going on with you today? What’s the energy level of the people you’re working with? What is their level of attention and engagement? Is their energy and attention aligned with what you need to accomplish together? If it is, great – how can you build on that? If it’s not, what are your options for bringing yourself and everyone else back into the conversation?

Listen:  When you listen, start with yourself and then extend it to others.  First, get a handle on the internal dialogue in your head. (We all have them throughout the day.)  Is it productive or non-productive? If it’s productive, run with it.  If it’s not, look (again) for something that’s working and focus on that. As you listen to others, really listen.  Put the smartphone down and tune into them.  If you want to get everyone engaged, ask open ended questions and really listen to the answers. A couple of great ones to get things started are “What do you think about this?” and “What do you think our options are?”

If you’re like most of the leaders I work with, you’re not going to get more done this week by working harder. You’re most likely already working at your max.  So, it probably makes sense to try something new. Stop, look and listen seems like a reasonable place to start.

How could you make a stop, look and listen routine work for you? What else are you doing to show up as a mindful leader?