• The Mindful Manager

    The Mindful Manager

    Posted 14/01/2013 By in MANAGEMENT, RESILIENCE With | 3 Comments

    I have been teaching resilience to individuals, teams and managers for the past couple of years.  I believe that one of the most integral components of Resilience is the art of mindfulness.  The benefits of mindfulness have long been understood by Eastern practices such as meditation, Budhism, yoga, and a wide range of martial arts incorporate it as well.  The more I look into positive psychology through a Western lens (MRI’s, experiments and research, brain scans, psychology, neuro-science etc) the more I come to understand that some of the most profoundly positive benefits can be derived from practices that have been around for thousands of years.  In fact, much can be gained from simply following the advice of a classic bumper sticker that simply says…

    Today’s managers have so many challenges on their plate and many of them are thrust into management positions somewhat unprepared for the complexities of leading a team, completing their own work, managing relationships inside and outside of work and juggling multiple and conflicting priorities with limited resources and increasing expectations of success or output [whew! I get tired just writing that].

    In order for Manager’s to create engaged teams (and to be engaged themselves by their work) it’s important to make sure they focus on the present.  Yes, you need to plan for the future and learn from the mistakes of the past, but not stopping and being present in the moment robs you of the opportunity for genuine connection, fulfilment and satisfaction.  Keep rushing towards the future and you may also miss the glaringingly obvious signs of what’s happening for your people…RIGHT NOW.

    Consider this.  You’ve got a busy day, one of your team has called in sick, you’re already behind schedule, you;ve got a mountain of work to get through and more budget cuts to manage… and then a staff member pops in to talk about their weekend.  Or to ask for leave.  Or to raise an issue about the project they’re working on. Whatever – doesn’t matter.  Your thoughts are something like “Oh god, I don’t have time for this, can you just sort this out yourself…”.  Don’t fool yourself that this thinking doesn’t influence how you come across.  From a brief flash of annoyance on your face, to an audible sigh, or even an abrupt answer, these signals are visible to the other person and they will respond to it.  How they do respond is as varied as the people themselves and while some responses may outwardly appear positive “oh, I can see you are busy now, when’s a good time to come back?” there will be a little piece of the jigsaw that person is making up about you that gets filed away.  Several impatient interactions down the track and they’re now starting to build a picture of you that may discourage future engagement, or erode their perception of their relationship with you or chip away a little at the loyalty they feel towards you.  Did you know that once opinions are formed human beings seek evidence that supports that opinion and DISREGARD EVIDENCE THAT REFUTES IT.

    Here’s a personal example from a recent relationship I had with a Senior Manager who’s response to a piece of work, that I was quite proud and had produced very quickly, was disparaging.  To add insult to injury he  had also completely ignored the pre-text in which I presented that piece of work that proactively addressed all his subsequently raised concerns.  This confirmed several previous and similar interactions with this person and that was that.  Suffice to say, I am no longer working with that person and he lost a resource he could ill afford to lose at that time.

    So.  How do you avoid all that?  Well the Mindful Manager is one who recognises that much of what they need to do is in the present.  It’s in what’s going on right NOW that will influence what happens in the future.  Want to build a resilient team that will help you overcome peaks in demand?  You need to start right now.  Want to be recognised as a Manager who develops exceptional talent?  What are you doing about that now?  Want to free yourself up to take on exciting projects in the future….?  [Yup, you guessed it] then what are you doing NOW to get your team able to function without you?

    A Mindful Manager is one who does not feel guilt about taking time to step back from a situation, to observe from a distance and reflect on their thoughts and emotions without judgement.  A Mindful Manager is one who aims to cultivate a sense of focus, a sense of calmness and a sense of clarity.

    In a recent TED production, Mindfulness Expert Andy Puddicombe shares a few interesting facts and tips on how to be more mindful in our own lives.  Of most significance for me was that he quoted recent Harvard research findings that on average we spend 47% of our time unproductively lost in thought and that further, this directly led to increased unhappiness.  Somewhat alarming in my opinion.

    The take-away concept for me was his saying, “Remember, you can’t change what happens to you in life, but you CAN change how you experience it.”   I have included a link to his video at the bottom of this post.

    Building Resilience is one component of my 12 month Management Development Program.  To find out more you can download the program overview Management Coaching Program v2.0.

    Enjoy the present and don’t forget to breathe.

    Please help me to spread the word by sharing.

      Sean is an experienced coach, speaker and facilitator who is passionate about improving the relationship between people, their work and the organisations they work for. If you want to get the most out of your managers, supervisors and their teams and think that work can or should be a rewarding and enjoyable component of a productive and meaningful life it might be worth a chat.

    3 comments on “The Mindful Manager

    1. Ashley Jamowitz on said:

      What a great TED talk, thanks for sharing it Sean. A strategy I employ is to set aside my break time at work as the time for me to do my stressing about outside things – money, relationships, friends, etc… When I’m at work, I’m at work – and there with a smile.

      • Sean on said:

        Thanks Ashley. :-)

        Good strategy to compartmentalise external pressures so you can focus on your work. Perhaps even better would be dedicating some specific time outside of work and your break so that you can plan how best to resolve those issues (friends, money etc)? For your break to be a break, it needs to be relaxing and refreshing, ‘stressing’ about stuff is not really relaxing. Perhaps though, you were simply making the point you compartmentalise and focus and using the term ‘stress’ loosely. :-)

        • Ashley Jamowitz on said:

          That’s true Sean, thanks for your reply! Mostly, my stresses are not crippling – they’re just superfluous stuff that I can push out of my mind when it’s work-time. I’m a big believer in not bringing my problems into the office, even when they are occasionally big ones. Focusing on my co-workers and customers actually helps to make me feel better on the days when I actually am dealing with a tough personal issue.

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