Focusing on truly living and working in the present may sound like an easy task and you may even think ‘well that is what I do every day!’, but are you really practicing the art of mindfulness? Mindfulness is paying attention in a purposeful way to focus purely on the present; allowing the moment to be fully experienced and observed. It is achieved when you manage to regulate your attention to focus solely on your thoughts and emotions. So how can practicing mindfulness benefit leadership?
ATD mention in their Talent Development Magazine article that solid leadership requires “self-knowledge, self-awareness, and centeredness” and a method to “manage the constant onslaught of inputs and stimuli to maintain the presence of mind and good health.” This is where mindfulness comes in… Effective leaders need to be able to manage their time to complete tasks efficiently and prioritise attention to complete the most important things first. We cannot work on more than one thing and expect to focus and work on every task at the same high-level of ability we are capable of. If we try to focus on more than one thing at once our level of ability wanes and one thing will be the focus whilst the other exists more as noise. Through demonstrating mindfulness, leaders can concentrate their focus fully on the present task which requires their most attention and ensure it is approached with a more strategic standpoint.
As a leader, if we train ourselves to focus on one thing at a time then this will help us to respond rather than react to situations. Less clutter and distractions filling our mind means when we are faced with a situation, we are able to make a more concise and attuned response through gaining more clarity so we can view the bigger picture. As The Guardian comment, a mindful leader will be able to reduce disorder by bringing focus and intent to a situation and observe and respond with composure and position.
Through focusing on the present, we are removing any past experiences which will impair our current outlook. This results in an unbiased outlook and logically judging what approach would work best for the situation you are focusing on. It will help you to open your mind to fresh, creative thinking and ideas!
Today’s workplace environment can push us to work at full-speed all the time and technology means it can be hard to switch off. However, if we are confident in the art of mindfulness, we reclaim our hold on our emotional and mental state. Jan Bruce wrote for Forbes rightly commenting, “you’ve got to slow down sometimes in order to move at the speed your demands and ambitions require.” Mindfulness allows you to take a step back and pause to open yourself to innovation.
In order to be mindful, we should be aware of the four key principles that make up Mindful Leadership. ATD’s Talent Development Magazine article states these are:
- mastery of attention
- clarity of intention
- optimisation of attitude & emotional intelligence
- integration into every domain of daily life, work & relationships
Meditation is a key part of strengthening your ability to practice mindfulness. A simple meditation exercise is the body scan, where we take some quiet time during the day to mentally scan the body to look for areas of tension and focus on relaxing these areas. Another is to spend 10 minutes freeing your mind from the ‘noise’ and busyness through focusing only on your breath. Concentrating solely on the inward and outward breath trains your mind to focus on one thing and puts you in a state which is free from other thoughts. Your mind will likely wander to other things, however, you just need to bring your mind back each time to the focus on the breath. Another technique suggested by ATD to adopt the habit of mindfulness is to use the physical transition of walking between two rooms as a prompt to breathe, reflect on thoughts and return yourself to the present. Read more on the importance and positive impact of self-reflection in one of our previous blog post’s; Make time for some reflection!
Practicing mindfulness in the way you lead can help you to transform your approach to work and make you more resilient. (Check out our Infographic on Resilience by clicking here!) This will impact on the way you interact with your team and in turn help them to work with more resilience too. Do you think the art of mindfulness could be a new key ingredient in your leadership approach?