Guest Post – The Best Reason for Leaders to Cultivate Mindfulness


I like authors that write with passion, intelligence, and even a dash of spunk …

Monica Worline and Jane Dutton have given us a rare gift.  Their new book Awakening Compasssion at Work: The Quiet Power That Elevates People and Organizations takes a fairly old discussion and updates it nicely.

While most managers have moved (hopefully) beyond Taylor’s concept that we are all just cogs in complex machines, we have not yet fully embraced the idea that we can work like we are playing some competitive team sport like soccer or football.  These authors dare to suggest that what we need is less macho and more femininity in the workplace.  That’s not near all they do, but that’s the direction they take us.  I like the journey.

For a sample of their writing and teaching skills, see the sample below:

 

The Best Reason for Leaders to Cultivate Mindfulness

Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton

Workplaces often silence suffering. Usually the silence comes from fear. We are afraid that expressing suffering will seem unprofessional. We are afraid our difficult feelings will cause conflict or evoke harmful emotions in others. We are afraid of negative repercussions, or we don’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves.

But these fears that silence suffering also stifle compassion. And compassion matters at work. It is a portal to resilience, adaptability, innovation, and collaboration. Compassion helps people heal in the wake of tragedy and helps organizations bounce back after downturns in the market. Compassion is a key to engaging and retaining both employees and clients. So how can leaders who want these benefits in their organizations confront these fears and break the silence that keeps out compassion?

One answer is to become more mindful. While mindfulness has become popular recently because it helps us to manage stress, it has other benefits for leaders as well. And cultivating compassion may be the best reason of all to learn to practice more mindfulness as a leader.

Mindfulness is sometimes defined as an embodied awareness of what is changing from moment to moment. When we are mindful, we can see more of what is influencing us at subtle levels. We realize that we are being pulled by tides of fear, time pressure, hierarchy, and stigma that are barely recognizable in our conscious experience. But the pull of these tides is often strong enough to keep us silent. As we become more mindful of our own experience, we realize that others are caught in these tides as well. So, mindfulness helps cultivate compassion for ourselves and for others.

Mindfulness is often taught through practices such as observing oneself breathing, repeating a simple sound or phrase, or using visualization for systemic relaxation. These techniques help us see our active and jumpy mind for what it is, and help us get to the deeper benefits of more calm, less fear, and a greater capacity to remain present with others. When we are more mindful as leaders, we have the capacity to hear and witness suffering without losing our cool. We move toward compassion.

Mindfulness helps leaders cultivate compassion in another significant way. Research shows that people in positions of power are less attuned to the full humanity of others in lower status positions. That means it is easy for leaders to overlook suffering. Even if they care—leaders may simply be blinded by their position. Mindfulness helps leaders take off these blinders.

Mindful leaders use practices of reflection, meditation, breathing, prayer, dialogue, visualization or other tools to restore their awareness of the range of emotions and reactions people are bringing to work. One suggestion we offer in our book Awakening Compassion at Work is to repeat a phrase we learned from our colleague Peter Frost. Each time you are about to enter a conversation or launch a meeting, remind yourself: “There’s always pain in the room.” Once you see and feel the pain people are bringing to work, you will be able to break the silence and unlock the force of compassion in your organization.


For even more thoughtful information about compassion in the workplace, check out the  Awakening Compassion at Work blogsite

Monica Worline, PhD, is CEO of EnlivenWork. She is a research scientist at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and Executive Director of CompassionLab, the world’s leading research collaboratory focused on compassion at work.

Jane Dutton, PhD, is the Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology and cofounder of the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. She has written over 100 articles and published 13 books, including Energize Your Workplace and How to Be a Positive Leader. She is also a \founding member of the CompassionLab.

Their new book, Awakening Compassion at Work, available now on Amazon, reveals why opening our eyes to the power of compassion is smart business.

 

A Look Back …


50 Years of Me

While the rest of you were celebrating what is being termed “The Soggy Fourth” in the Midwest, I took some time out to travel north to the little town of Memphis in Scotland County up by the Iowa border.  This is farming country …

The occasion was the 50th anniversary of our high school graduation and I was there to reconnect and catch up with some very dear and “somewhat” old friends.

Some folks not as far along on the road might not appreciate how quickly 50 years can flow by, even with all the twists and turns of life.   I was a very callow young fellow in 1966, full of enthusiasm, spirit, and optimism… The times were changing.

We were a small class from a small town, by most people’s standards.   Less than 70 graduated and 16 have passed on since we burst forth with excitement after completing what I now know was a pretty good basic education.   Over 30 of us were able to join together this weekend to remember, laugh, cry, and catch up.

Class of 1966 - Tom Fender

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these folks and the evening went by far too quickly.   As I drove back to St. Louis through the dark night rain, I had ample time to think about all this  and came up with a few thoughts to share.  Some of this relates to those with whom I grew up and some of it relates more broadly to my home community.

Be warned – this is a ramble, rather than a polished essay:

WE KNOW HOW TO CONVERSE WITH EACH OTHER ….

Continue reading

Being The Truth …


Mask - Presenter MediaDuring her WBECS presentation (best value on the planet for leadership and business coaches), Lisa Bloom, the Story Coach, was talking about the importance of having stories that reflect our lives.  

At one point, she made this powerful statement:

“AUTHENTICITY CANNOT BE FAKED.”

 

First thing that popped into my head on hearing the above:

“The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

Wrongly attributed to Jean Giraudoux , George Burns,  and Arthur Bloch, and probably first uttered by an anonymous actress (see footnote).

 

After giving myself a good Gibbs Headslap for that snarky initial response, I gave this seemingly simple statement some more thought.

OPERATIONAL DEFINITION:  Authenticity is when you speak, act, and think in ways congruent and consistent with your values, beliefs, and attitudes

YES, YOU CAN …

If someone else believes that you are telling the truth and acting honestly when you are not in fact doing so, you have fooled them.   This happens regularly in politics, business, and the entertainment industry.

Some business models are built on the assumption that you can, in fact, fake sincerity and convince people you are sincere in spite of reality.

NO, YOU CAN’T …

The above examples and statement aside, we are left with our own internal sense of consistency.  We may be able to fool others into thinking we are sincere in a particular context, but we really cannot fool ourselves.

Yes, we can have internal dialogues or stories which justify what we do and say as right, appropriate, or necessary.  We believe many things to be true of ourselves which are not so.  This is a paradox of sorts:  We falsely believe we are not being false.

The reality is that if we search deeply within ourselves in an honest manner, we always find that we know when we are faking it and when we are making it.

WHY IT MATTERS …

Probably to some people, this is not an important consideration.

The politician who desires power, the businessperson who craves wealth, and the actor whose livelihood depends on making you believe something is so when it is not, are driven by strong motivations.

Notice I have said nothing yet about the value or relative worth of those motivations.

Desiring power or wealth is not something inherently bad, but our actions in pursuit of power or wealth and our use of both may be very negative.

Simply put, what drives us determines what matters and how it matters …

We are at our best when our actions and behaviors match what we feel inside AND our motivations are altruistic and benevolent.

The politician who desires power to control others and for personal gain, regardless of impact, is not authentic …

The politician who desires power in order to promote the general good and improve the welfare of all because they believe that to be the right thing to do is being authentic …

Or so it seems to me … 

What makes you authentic?

How does this works in the real world?

How do we do the wrong things for the right reasons or vice versa?

Tangling myself all up in philosophical knots in the Heartland ….

John

 

 

 

Getting It Right …


No MistakesGoing back to my roots for this one …

At one time, I was quite enamored of all things Richard Bach … yes, even the seagull:)  It was a thing we did, if we were of a certain age at a certain time in certain places and contexts.  

However, Bach wrote more than just Jonathan Livingstone Seagull.  This quotation comes from one of his other works, as I remember.

So to business …

NO MISTAKES?  This seems a bit much to accept, doesn’t it?

I can list a number of events from my life that definitely felt like mistakes, at the time and usually long afterward.   I have hurt others with my words and actions.  I have cost myself and others money, time, and energy.  I have failed to do what I know is right on more occasions than I am comfortable thinking about.

Over the course of things, I would imagine most of us make more “mistakes” than we get it right.

This is not surprising when you take into account a reality:  

EVERYONE IS LIVING THEIR LIVES FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME

Unless you ascribe to reincarnation or some other philosophy that allows multiple changes to get it right, we only get one chance to do each thing.  Now we might get another chance tomorrow to do that same thing, but it is not the chance we have today, but a new round at the same issue or topic.

Bach’s main point seems that we learn from our mistakes, so they are not mistakes in the eternal sense of the word, but rather “life adjustments“.  You know, those conversations that usually begin with some form of “I’m sorry …” or “You know, that didn’t work out like I wanted it to …”

Those of us who have attempted to create strong and intimate relationships through marriage, alliance, parenting, or friendship should welcome the news that we get to make adjustments.   The mistakes we make with one person or situation are part of what allows us to get it right in another situation or with another person.

I know of NO perfect relationships or situations, so we are all works in progress.

A quick note to the younger folks in the audience:

AGE DOES NOT EQUAL ABSENCE OF MISTAKES

I know older folks often seem like they have achieved that blissful state where all goes well every day because they know how to live without problems, but that is an act in itself.

We’re just calmer about making our mistakes now, because we recognize they are continual pop quizzes on how to do life and are essential to getting the right answers at the end.

How have you made and how are you making mistakes?

What are you learning from your mistakes?

What mistakes do you wish you had made?

You can catch up with Richard Bach HERE and you will not regret spending a few minutes with this thoughtful truth seeker.

Trying both to remember and forget all my past and current mistakes at the same time in the Heartland …

John

Image:  Gratisography.com – A great source of creative and unique photographs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bit About Dragons …


Dragons

 

Dragons are mythical beasts, so they say …

I happen to disagree, because I have seen and fought dragons in my own life, and seen the evidence of their fiery breath and sharp talons in other’s.

Of course, the dragons I talk about here are metaphorical ones, but that does not mean they are one bit less fearsome or dangerous than the mythical ones we celebrate in story and image.

Two things to consider this morning:

“More than true …”

I read this phrase and immediately thought about those things which teach us something.  Whether they are literally true or completely made up appears to be irrelevant or at least not very important.

What does matter is what we learn that helps us do better next time.

“Dragons can be beaten …”

This is a powerful concept:  We imagine things which scare us … but we can also imagine defeating that which frightens us.

Dragons will always exist, in our dreams if nowhere else.  The key here appears to be to accept and use the idea that what we can imagine, we can overcome.

So …

What dragons are scaring the bejeebers out of you this morning?

What you gonna do about that?

Remembering the dragons already slain, which gives me strength for those to come in the Heartland ….

John

Image:  Eastern dragon illustration by Kattekrab via Wikipedia – in the Public Domain