|Mindfulness lets leaders see more possibilities
Women at Work
"You cannot solve a problem from the frame of mind that created the problem in the first place." — Einstein
It's coming to an organization near you: It started in China and India thousands of years ago. It's in the halls of Harvard and Stanford University today. It's making its way into leadership development globally. It is mindfulness, a combination of meditation, science and business management. These disciplines are being merged to access new sources of brain-power. It is the 21st-century skill for leadership.
Over the past 50 years, we discovered that leadership is comprised of personality, intelligence, experience, skills and emotions. Our foundations were primarily scientific management, psychology, economics and the military. These models created a thriving economy for much of the 20th century. Unfortunately for many leaders, when the competition heated up, they were ill-equipped to handle problems of the new economy. Consequently, I believe Rochester's leaders need to have access to cutting-edge leadership models.
The new leadership is defined as creating "a fundamental shift in what the workforce sees as possible," according to researcher C. Otto Schramer. To do this, leaders must shift what is possible for themselves before they can shift others. One method is to involve oneself in intrapersonal study using mindfulness.
Mindfulness skills, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, involve "learning to pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, to whatever arises in your field of experience." Skills include: self-awareness, self-management and relationship management, similar to Emotional Intelligence. Where mindfulness differs is that it strengthens the tendency to be open, engaged and innovative because it causes one to be interested in the experience with acceptance and curiosity. Mindfulness skills also teach leaders how to quickly shift from disconnected to engaged, closed to open, and so forth.
Here is an example of using mindfulness skills in a conflict situation. An employee accuses you of favoritism. Mindfulness skills teach you how to slow down and pay attention to different sensations: your heart rate, feelings of embarrassment, your opinions of this person, without judgment. The benefit to you is the likelihood of a healthier, relationship-altering conversation because you've learned to pay attention to your sensations and use them as a guide to decreasing judgment and increasing curiosity.
Additionally, mindfulness skills are mechanisms to help you access otherwise hidden knowledge. This powerful inner knowledge contains what you feel, value and think. To tap into this new source of brain power one has to slow down or, as I call it, "tame the tiger." Research proves that the brain cannot change, influence, problem-solve, make decisions or even learn, when it is in hyperactive overdrive. To slow down, one must go to a place of mindful calmness and presence. "When (people are) truly present, they are open to the many communications that are taking place, not just the literal. They are also open to unfamiliar and inspired ideas. Most beneficially, they express the effortless action of allowance rather than the strenuous effort of overcoming obstacles," explains personal reality coach Dale A. Evans of It All Begins Now. This is the direction the rest of the world is taking. Shouldn't we?
Karen Barrow is founder and owner of Baybridge Consulting Inc., an organization development firm specializing in leadership development, group dynamics and culture change.
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This column is written by members of the Rochester Women's Network, whose focus is to help women connect, grow and succeed. For more information, go to www.rwn.org.
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