Mindful leadership starts with moment-to-moment awareness

You’ve seen “The Mindful Revolution” on the cover of Time. You’ve heard about the studies. People in your office talk about meditation and yoga. What does all this have to do with work? Everything.

What would your productivity look like if you could complete your next project in 70 percent less time? That is the percentage of employees in the U.S. who are not engaged in their work according to Gallup. Odds are that some of the 70 percent work for you.

While corporate training is a $70 billion industry in the U.S., mindfulness programs are flourishing organically from the inside.

Stress prompted Janice Marturano, former deputy general counsel at General Mills, to create a mindfulness program at the company. It was so popular that she left to start her own institute.

There are 500 employees on the waiting list at Google for the class Search Inside Yourself taught by Chade-Meng Tan, an engineer who now teaches mindfulness full time at Google.

Be a mindful leader

Mindful leadership is accepting what is without judgment while in the moment.

Great leaders manage themselves as much as they manage others. Their self-regulation keeps them from prejudging, remaining open to make good, not reactive, real-time decisions.

They have empathy. They notice when someone is posturing before feeling threatened. They resolve conflict with deep listening so they may collaboratively seek common ground. They risk being seen authentically. And they don’t make fear-based decisions disguised as practicality.

Notice yourself first

Self-awareness is the key to mindful leadership. Assessments such as 360-Degree Evaluations, DISC and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® are a great place to start. But that is just the beginning.

Self-regulating in the moment needs to build with the ability to nonjudgmentally notice your thoughts and behaviors before you interject. This starts simply with noticing the pattern of your breathing without allowing your mind to stray — basic, yet challenging for the multitasking mind.

Notice what makes you anxious and accept how that clouds your decisions. “I notice I am being defensive and that’s OK. I am a good listener.” If you can’t sit with what haunts you, how can you help others face what holds them back?

Deep listen

People listen in three ways: to insert their opinion once you take a breath, to formulate a solution before you even finish talking or simply for the sake of understanding.

Next time you are in conflict with someone, deep listen until they stop talking. Don’t interrupt. (That’s where mindfulness pays off.) Ask them to tell you more. Then validate back what you heard and what was inferred. “I bet that’s frustrating.” Trust evolves and collaboration builds.

Mindfulness is a skill for all aspects of life. Mindful leadership is not about what you do but who you are no matter where you are seated at the table. When you show your team you care about them as much as your project, watch what happens to productivity.

Mary Lee Gannon is the president of StartingOverNow.com — because great people don’t become great leaders on their own.