In coaching I often ask leaders about their experience of mindfulness. Typically, they’ll say…
“I have mindful moments, when I’m biking, hiking, running, or walking, that’s when I do my best thinking. It really sorts things out in my head”
Paradoxically though, if you’re thinking and ‘sorting things out in your head’, you’re not achieving mindfulness. That doesn’t mean you have to sit in the lotus position on a mountain top, but that mindfulness is a state where your mind is quiet and your awareness is focused on the present, calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations as they come and go.
Simple techniques like paying attention to the natural rhythm of your breathing, closing your eyes and focusing on your senses can help you drop into a mindful state. But what few people realise is that mindfulness can help you be more effective in your work and life.
Many leaders believe that to be respected or have gravitas they must project a certain presence, tone or state. Most of us have also experienced people who try to channel a leader who role-modelled these traits. Did you know though, that the presence people find most compelling is usually your authentic, mindful self?
In our busy-ness, going from task to task, meeting to meeting, we don’t get an opportunity to reset. Stopping to take even the briefest mindful moment can help you let go of the thoughts and moods associated with one activity and pick up ones that will be most useful and appropriate to the next.
Find a quiet place before you walk into an important meeting, anywhere will do, and spend 3 – 5 minutes doing one of these simple mindfulness techniques. This will have a significant impact on your physiology – your pulse, breathing, blood pressure and brain waves will start to trend to their resting level – you’ll become more focused on your own physical and emotional state and your environment.
It’s in this calm, open state that the ‘presence’ others find so compelling, our authentic self, comes to the fore.
Perhaps the most vital Emotional Intelligence skill is our ability to accurately read the emotional cues of those around us. The biggest barrier to this can simply be that we don’t look! We can get so caught up in our own stream of consciousness that we are rarely truly present to what’s happening right in front of us.
Next time you go to an important meeting, take something you can put on the table in front of you that doesn’t belong there. Unlike a notepad, water bottle, coffee cup or phone, an in-congruent object like an interesting rock you picked up on a hike, or a small, cherished memento can be used as a tool to draw your attention in and pull you into the here and now.
Each time you notice your ‘anchor’ object, look immediately to the person next to you and ask yourself “What am I seeing, what are they feeling?”. Try and read their emotional state, then move on the next person, and the next. Most people are surprised when they mindfully read others. Taking in their engagement, distraction, curiosity, frustration or excitement gives you the knowledge to be a more powerful communicator and influencer.
Who do you listen to the most? Chances are you answered, my boss, partner, parent. In actuality we each listen to a ceaseless voice that relentlessly narrates our lives – our consciousness.
This observer speaks within our mind, talking in our own voice, constantly asking questions, making comments and judgements, and drawing conclusions. We are entirely and most times passively unaware of the stream of thought that monopolises our attention.
See if you can start becoming aware of this unrelenting critique. It will allow you to notice these two things:
By incorporating these simple mindfulness practices into your daily life, you can build your leadership presence, demonstrate greater emotional intelligence and become a more compelling listener to and leader of others. And who wouldn’t want that.
To find out how we can help you, please contact us at Dattner Group.