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How to be a more mindful leader

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As human beings, we all have the gift of being present and in the moment, it’s whether we choose to use it that makes the difference. That is real mindfulness.

Speaking at our most recent event, “Mindful Leadership in a Fast-Paced World,” Simon Rountree, CEO of Change Ready, said that we can all train and rewire our brain to be more mindful, and there are simple practices we, as leaders and human beings, can use in everyday life that will enable us to be more present, connected and engaged in our lives and at work, in order to make more meaningful and thoughtful decisions.

“A mindful leader is consciously present in what they are doing, while they are doing it, by cultivating four fundamental skills: Focus, Curiosity, Noticing and Clarity,” says Simon.

Focus

On average, each day, we lose focus 47% of the time, says Simon. When we lose this focus, it derails us from where we are and what we need to do. The impact of this is that we’re not connected or engaged with what we are doing. We operate on autopilot – absentmindedly. This could be as simple as typing emails at your desk, vaguely nodding in agreement while a colleague or staff member is trying to talk to you.

So, what are some simple things you can do to regain your focus in the workplace and be a more mindful leader?  

  • Practice mindfulness – this is really just about taking a moment to close your eyes, focus on your breathing, disconnecting from the noise around you and being in the moment. It only needs to be a few minutes in a day, but by doing so, it helps you to better put things in perspective and gain more emotional control over your actions.  According to Simon, this awareness enables you to skilfully respond to situations/people rather than react automatically or impulsively.
  • Reset your brain – unless you train your brain to have focus, it will just follow random thought paths that are easy and take you off on a tangent, says Simon. Rejig your brain by taking a moment after a stressful meeting to pause, take a deep breath and calm your mind, before jumping into your next task. Acknowledge your thoughts and then let them go. This prevents you from taking those stresses with you to your next meeting and focus on what’s important.

Curiosity

In order to be present as a leader, you actually have to be curious, says Simon. It’s about wanting to learn and being open to new ideas. It’s about wanting to be challenged and taken out of your comfort zone. It’s about having a genuine curiosity and thirst for knowledge from those around you.

A great technique to help you do this, says Simon, is RAAS:

  • Receive: pay attention to what someone is saying to you. Really listen. Look them in the eye.
  • Appreciate: show that you are listening. Nod, smile.
  • Ask: ask questions. Show a genuine interest in what they have to say.
  • Summarise: recap what they said to you, to show you’ve listened and understood.

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Noticing

When we are not noticing what’s around us, we miss things and that’s where mistakes happen. It leads to poor communication and a misunderstanding of intentions.

According to Simon, the job of any good leader is to notice how your staff think and act, and whether they are ‘above-the-line thinkers’ (positive, optimistic, courageous, accountable, with a growth mindset) or ‘below-the-line thinkers’ (place blame, find problems not solutions, ignore or block others).

When you truly understand this, you know how to work with them and can support and guide them from being a ‘below-the-line’ thinker to an ‘above-the-line thinker’ so they can perform at their best.

“A great leader should always be an above-the-line thinker. They are authentic, optimistic, accountable, have the courage to take action, back themselves and their teams, and open to giving and receiving feedback,” says Simon.

  • Only do task at a time. The more you multitask the more addictive it gets, and it becomes unproductive.
  • Implement the “5 Second Rule.” If you’ve been putting off or delaying a task, you’re wasting more time and energy on these thoughts, that just doing it. Countdown to yourself: 5,4,3,2,1 and then just do it. No excuses.
  • Slow down to speed up – effective leaders reflect to make the best decisions and actions.
  • Get a distraction pad – write things down that may distract you from your task. This frees them from your mind and helps you to get back to what matters.

Clarity

The final tool to help you be a more mindful leader, is to operate with clarity, not ambiguity, says Simon. This is about setting and stating intentions before meetings or big projects and asking yourself and others, three important questions:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What is our intention?
  • What is the outcome/why does it matter?

“High performers constantly seek clarity. They work hard to shift out distractions, so they focus on what is important,” says Simon.

For more great tips and insights from Simon, you can head to www.changeready.com.au

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