One of the most powerful paths to greater performance is by minimizing interference – the stuff that clutters our mind and perspective. The best way I have found to minimize the interference of harried work schedules, as well as the pressures and worry we experience in the workplace is to cultivate a way give yourself a break – literally.
A great way to cultivate some centered stillness and clarity in your life is to give your mind and body a “time-out” with a pause practice. Some people do that with a simple quiet time over lunch, others do it with a sitting-in-silence practice or meditation.
Recently, I was introduced to an iPhone app called Headspace – they have some videos that do a great job of explaining why “pause” is so powerful:
- Life slows down and we can see our thoughts for what they are
- We can see our options more clearly
- We feel more refreshed and less reactive to the things that just “happen”
Check out these YouTube videos that explain the principles from Headspace – they are fun and informative.
What leader couldn’t use more headspace with all that we have going on?
Ask yourself: what becomes possible when I move from a relaxed an aware state rather from the last meeting that left me a concerned about an issue, pressured to get things done or the like?
Creating a pause practice for yourself can be one of the most powerful ways to increase your presence, stay connected with your team and see all the possible ways to move in action.
Here are example practices that some of the leaders I’ve worked with invent for themselves that might inspire you:
- A walk with the dog where you are focused in the present moment, not on the other stuff you need to do or think about – be present with your companion, with the weather, and how it feels to be on the walk
- 10 minute guided meditation each day, using an app on an iPhone
- Being fully present and mindful while doing something creative (journaling, painting, drawing)
- Being fully present doing something relatively mundane ( a woman I worked with put her makeup on mindfully each morning).
Get a little more blue sky in your day – it makes a difference!
Some terminology to be familiar with: “Competing Commitments”.
Essentially it means that while you may be committing to a new possibility or place you want to be in you career or your life, but at the very same time, you are holding onto another commitment to something else.
Example: You could be someone who wants to lose weight, and you are committing to that, but at the same time, you have a “competing commitment” in that when you are bored or emotional, you eat as a way to soothe those feelings.
We see this in career transition too. Oftentimes you have to “let go” of something or delegate it to someone else to make room for the new responsibilities you are taking on and learning. The thing you are unconsciously competent at (meaning you can do it so well without thinking about it) is hard to let go of, especially if it is something you enjoy. And then you are taking on something new, that might be unfamiliar that you have to think about consciously and learn. It takes more time and energy to delegate and take on something new if you aren’t used to that.
So it feels like you are running in two lanes. How to deal with it? Become aware of what is competing for your attention, and understand why it is happening. Make the decision of what serves your future, make the plan and the structure to move toward that.
I’ve worked with some leaders who have gotten to where they were by passion, grit and determination. Passion and drive expressed through their work that produced greater heights in their career. Yet people around them, while benefitting from the results of the success, were afraid to express their true feelings if counter to the leader’s point of view.
Suggestion: Drive and passion without openness and perspective as a balance, can lead to a narrow view of success, and a lack of perspective. Any strength – overextended – can become a weakness. The cost to the leader in this situation is not having the benefit of other perspectives that could lead to rich solutions, challenges to avoid pitfalls and greater success. In effect, they have created their own set of blinders. It produces “the emperor has no clothes” effect – staff agreeing and supporting the leader and not bringing up healthy challenge to the leader’s perspective.
So what does a path to greater openness look like? A beginning point is developing a capacity of awareness…to be able to read the signs that openness is warranted. To identify when a passion and drive is overextended:
- When assessment becomes judgement
- When persuasion and assertion produces a “closing down” or defense in other people
- When reaction to the leader’s expressed passion is silence that is deafening.
This is were an executive coach can help – to assist the leader in developing this capacity, and to build an ability to self-generate the antidote as a leader.
Reading/Resources on this subject:
Yesterday I went to Starbucks – to treat myself to a Friday Mocha. When I approached the window in the drive through to pay for my beverage, I was informed that the person in front of me in the drive through paid for my beverage. HOW COOL. So, I paid for the person behind me.
First, what a great way to surprise people in a good way, and to start something that is hard to resist to participate in. All it took was someone making the first move, and others follow suit and feel good about it.
How can we take that into the workplace? Something to think about that.
It’s called the Management Tip Of The Day from the Harvard Business Review – and you can sign up here:
You’ll get bits of good advice and reminders of what you can do and should do as a good manager and leader.
Things like: Start the day asking the right questions – to – Three keys to transitioning a project – to – Don’t let your job define you – to – Ways to turn old data into gold…and much more. Nice little daily reminder or inspirer!
A conditional tendency (CT) is a reaction we have to certain stimuli. When you get “grabbed” or “triggered” by a situation or what someone says. It is a conditioned reaction over time – to fear, anger, stress, etc. There are three categories of reaction – fight, flight or freeze.
- A fight CT can show up as a verbal response, flash of anger, a physical flush, a desire to go punch or kick something.
- A flight CT response is a “move away”. It can show up as a physical move away from the situation (like shutting down and leaving the room), and/or disassociation (another way of leaving).
- A freeze CT response can show up as loss of words, “stuffing of feeling”, or “circling behavior” – analysis paralysis if you will.
It is important to understand the physical sensations that precede a CT response – becoming aware of that allows you to recognize and shift it to a more desirable response in a given situation.
How does a conditional tendency get shaped? My our experiences and models over time – a conditional tendency typically has “taken care of us” at one point and so we continued it over time. Consider a child who grew up in a family that lived by the motto “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Faced with conflict over time, this person may choose avoid it at all costs – leaving he room, avoiding situations that involve conflict. It may have worked for them at one point in time, but if they are now a manager, avoidance of conflict doesn’t serve their goals in the present day.
That’s where coaching can come in – to help people become aware of conditional tendencies and shift toward something that works for their present day.
Proactive shaping of our stories and tendencies to move toward our goals – a powerful move.
From time to time, I need to name a project, a program or a product. This visual thesaurus is a very handy tool I recommend. Just click on the image above or visit http://www.visualthesaurus.com. You can try it once or twice for free, and then it is an annual service fee. Worth it if you do a lot of “word” work.