Mindfulness: Mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment.

As we begin 2017 and continue our saga together, it is a good time to think about mindfulness.  Mindful people and leaders are focused, kind, and authentic but not complacent or soft, even tough when they need to be.  Their passion can be fierce.  They will hold you accountable for commitments and will not avoid difficult conversations.  They will encourage you to stretch beyond your capacity.  These seem like excellent behaviors to model.

Research reveals that mindful individuals, those focused on the present moment and the present task at hand, have greater attention control, self-awareness, and emotional regulation, and get better results.

Here are few things you need to know about how to become more mindful, in the moment:

  • Learn how to be present.   Breath slowly and deeply.  Key in on what you are observing, noticing details that you would not have otherwise noticed.  Listen closely.  Engage all your senses.  It sounds cheesy but it works.  Mindfulness is the opposite of absentmindedness or automatic responses.
  • When you face a challenge or crisis, choose responsibility, compassion, and generosity. Inspire others to become better people by setting the example. Be 100% accountable for what happens next. Be that co-worker, friend, or leader who is calm and resourceful during the storm.
  • Be open to feedback.  Be fully aware as you take actions that are outside the values you have established for yourself.  Accept feedback with grace and humility rather than reactivity.
  • Recognize that you are tuned-in, connected, and engaged.  Every word you speak, every action you take has a tangible impact on everyone else.  You make a difference – good or bad – in your world.
  • Adopt a beginner’s mind rather than an expert’s mind.  Look at everything with fresh eyes, as if you had not seen what is going on around you before.   A beginner’s mind makes us more intelligent, not less.  We still take our knowledge with us.  A beginner’s mind keeps us from falling asleep at the wheel.
  • Empower others to shine.  A good co-worker and leader empowers his/her team members to shine, rather than taking credit for all that is done.  Affirm others by letting them know they are appreciated, capable enough, and worthy.  Truly see the good skills, behaviors, and compassion in others.  Help them become their best selves.

This is a great time of the year to practice mindfulness.  Examples of mindfulness:

For yourself:

  • As you drink a cup of hot chocolate, feel the warmth of the mug, taste the richness of the flavors, think about how it makes you feel.
  • As you observe someone you know in a concert, play, or recital, look at the faces, engage in the experience, and smile at those you are enjoying it with.
  • Whether you have young children or not, go to the park or the mall and observe.
  • When you are outdoors, look at the sky, feel the breeze, and watch the birds.

For those at home:

  • Look at their eyes when they are sharing an experience.  Hear what they are saying.  Try not to think about your response, simply engage in what they are saying.
  • Be there when they want to talk.

For those at work – employees or customers:

  • Look at the person when they are talking; listen, observe.  Hold back on responding for just a moment.
  • Recognize each person as a unique human being.

In summary, take each moment as a mindful, focused, in-the-moment individual and use it to persevere in moving forward.

Reference: “The Mindful Leader: 7 practices for transforming your leadership, your organization, and your life” by Michael Bunting

“You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.”

– Zig Ziglar

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. – Socrates

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches 

but to reveal to him his own. – Benjamin Disraeli

Randomness

Have you been walking, riding in your car, or riding your bike and spot ONE blue reflector in a very random spot on the road or in a parking lot?  When I saw one recently, I thought about randomness and how it impacts the workplace, especially if you are in a leadership role.

  1. You may hire a great new employee because at that moment, they walked in the door, you got that referral, or they clicked on your job ad. The right person at the right time for the right job could just be because of a random event.
  2. The weather changes constantly. It impacts attitudes, outlooks, and moods.  It impacts business – negatively and positively.
  3. Events occur that bring people (customers) to you or take people away from you – vacation times, travel times, construction, local events, traffic pattern changes. These events may only impact you directly or indirectly, e.g. a decision-maker you need to reach is temporarily unavailable.
  4. Events in employees’ lives impact how they focus on work or not. It impacts whether they are emotionally stable and engaged in the work they are doing.  Major life events are a huge distraction to productivity.
  5. And of course, there are many other examples of random ups and downs that impact you as a leader.

Here are some things you can do to better cope with the unexpected:

  1. Be flexible. Bend without breaking.  Modify your approach when circumstances change.
  2. Minimize your negative reactions. Quick reactions may be good if they are positive reactions that help you effectively cope with the situation.  Laughter is good medicine in the face of chaos.
  3. Check in to your moods. If you are impacted by a lack of sunlight, do something to energize yourself – walk around, engage in conversation, go outside (with an umbrella if necessary), drink coffee, change what you are doing more frequently.
  4. Plan for the down times. When you and your team are less busy, have a to-do list ready.  There are always things you have put on the back burner than need your attention.

Randomness, ups and downs, and chaos will always be a part of life.  Despite this unpredictableness, you need to remain positive and to keep moving forward.

“Creativity is the ability to introduce order into the randomness of nature.” – Eric Hoffer

Planning

Planning….what can I say?  If you don’t plan, nothing happens right.  If you don’t follow through on your plan, nothing happens.

Keep in mind these simple guidelines.

  • Determine where you want to go.  What is your vision?  Why is it important?
  • Decide who you want to take with you.  Remember, you can’t achieve success alone.  Which individuals or teams are important to your success?   How is it best to involve them?
  • Choose how you can best get there.  How do you redirect the organization through communication and actions?  How do you send the most impactful and clear message?
  • Anticipate obstacles.  What could go wrong?  How can you best recognize and respond to things that go wrong?
  • Agree upon the initiatives that will help you achieve great results.  Be as specific as possible.  Don’t use vague language or timeframes. What are the first priorities?  Who are the champions and the implementers?  What skills need to be honed during the journey?  Are there ways to test changes you want to make, e.g. in one location or one department before you expand to the entire organization?
  • Check in throughout the process. How are you doing?  Who needs to be recognized and who needs to be redirected?
  • Document and celebrate your results.  What is the best way to complete the communication loop?  How can you best celebrate milestones?
  • Repeat.  What is the right amount of time that needs to be allowed before you start over again?  What changes do you need to make in the process?

Sounds simple enough but it requires creativity and diligence.  Don’t drop the ball. Ask key players to help you stay on track.  Planning and implementation go hand in hand.  Make it happen together!

“Productivity is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

BRH

Teamwork vs Individualism: Using Professional Empathy to be a Better Coworker

In the workplace of today, teamwork is common, even mandatory, and generally accepted as best practice in a dynamic work environment.   That being said, the spirit of individualism is alive and well and can lead to moments of tension or awkwardness.  Striking the proper balance between teamwork and individual expression can be difficult.

You have probably experienced individualism push back against teamwork both ways – on the giving and receiving ends.  When someone steps into your work territory your hackles go up.  When you offer help to someone (or even more just do a coworker’s task without prior discussion) you are very surprised (even shocked) when they are not happy about it.

Why in the world would someone not want your input, ideas, creativity, and possibly even genius thoughts to be brought to the table?  There are several possible reasons.  They:

  1. Have their own ideas about the task or project.
  2. Don’t want to appear incompetent or like they need help.  They are concerned about perceptions of their boss or peers.
  3. Are a little bit insecure.
  4. Know their role, have been doing it for a while and are comfortable with the established boundaries.

These same points can be used to measure your reaction as well.  Maybe you are able to see the big picture better than others.  You may understand and appreciate the advantages of hearing, seeing, and experiencing others’ ideas.  Even if this is so, it can still feel strange and awkward when you sense a trespasser.  If this is something you can identify with, use that to help generate a sense of professional empathy.  If someone bristles at your help, then think about why you would bristle at someone else’s help and proceed with caution.

Beware!  When you are helping someone in your organization and you are entering someone else’s territory without permission (or even with permission – vocally or by omission) you may not get the appreciation you think you deserve and you may leave behind a bad taste.

Yes, walls need to be broken down sometimes.  Yes, problems need to be solved creatively. And, yes, collaboration is a good thing.  But tread softly the first time.  Be sensitive to others being hurt or offended.

Ensure that you are working toward a common goal and not just pushing your agenda. I will leave you with these suggested steps in the collaborative process:

  1. Assess the situation.  Be aware of the personalities involved, especially those who have more competitive personalities.
  2. Secure permission to be involved.
  3. Be flexible while being a part of the process and solution.
  4. Allow time for discussion, feedback, and debriefing.

 

BRH

 

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” – Ronald Reagan

Appreciating Vultures: How Well-Placed Employees Can Help Your Business Hum

It is easy to not appreciate vultures.  They are decidedly unpleasant looking and known for preying on what almost every other creature would consider inedible.  Whether or not you admire them, vultures do exactly what they are supposed to, expected to, and needed to do.  They have an important role to play in this world.  Webster defines ‘role’ as ‘a part that someone or something has in a particular activity or situation.  Oh, and these scavengers do have a key part.

 

As I walk early each morning, I have taken on the role of picking up large sticks, limbs, and debris in the road.  I pick up and discard anything that may scrape or impede a car, biker, runner, or fellow walker.  But…when I come across a dead squirrel or other creature, I give it a wide berth.  That, my friends, is the responsibility of the vulture.  He takes care of it so well that the road is clean to the point that by the next day you don’t even know it was ever there.  His featherless head, one that does not easily retain food scraps, is literally designed for the dirty business

 

It is the very same in the workplace.  Everyone has their role and every role is critical.  Roles that one person does not enjoy or is ill-suited for, is another’s perfect fit.  If roles are well-defined and well-suited to the employees, the operation hums.  If the roles are ill-defined, not so much:

  • Chaos ensues
  • Bickering occurs
  • Communication breaks down
  • Tension is obvious

And the operation no longer hums, if it ever did.

 

I could stop on my walk and unhappily clean up the roadkill I find, but it’s important to remember that not only will the vulture do it gladly, but also better. When the vulture doesn’t do his job, for whatever reason, someone else has to do it. When this occurs in the workplace, the same issues arise.  The individual ‘picking up the pieces’:

  • Doesn’t do the job as well
  • Resents having to do it
  • Isn’t as efficient at doing it
  • Has to be retrained or reminded about the standards

 

In managing and leading people, it is important to provide each person with a clear definition of their role, responsibilities, and how they impact the team as a whole.  The what, how, and why are all crucial.  Failing to create clear role definitions – formally and informally – will cost the business in so many ways.  So begin the process today:

  1. Assess your team members’ strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Assign and document responsibilities.
  3. Communicate everyone’s role within the team to the whole group.
  4. Continue to tweak assignments as questions arise or as opportunities for improvement present themselves.
  5. Ask for feedback from team members.
  6. Follow-up and revisit role definitions at least once per year.

 

If you are not the leader and sense a need for more definition, ask that a clearer process be adopted.  At a minimum, ask for your role to be clarified.  If you are having a conflict with a fellow employee and feel like role definition is a key issue, it is never a bad option to breach the subject directly or with a supervisor as a first step toward resolution.

Whatever you do in your workplace, it is vital for the company’s success.  Each role is crucial and every task a part of the whole. So next time you see a vulture, take a second to appreciate not only their unique skill set, but the great balanced system of the world that provides a role for that skill set.

 

BRH