“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” I love this quote from the movie Ferris Bueller. It rings true for me in my personal and professional life. I am a planner- I like to know what I have coming up and what needs to get done. I am also a strategist – what are we working towards and what will we need when we get there? Both of these are useful skills that we often emphasize in leadership. Unfortunately in today’s busy world we often overemphasize our lists and our plans and forget to focus on the present. In a world that is constantly buzzing, flashing, and tweeting, being present is a real challenge. It is hard to be mindful when your mind is full. Here is why mindfulness matters to business and three steps you can take to move yourself and your team forward.
Jon Zabat-Zinn is an internationally recognized leader in mindfulness and meditation. He defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.” Imagine if your leaders spent one less hour doing email and instead, paid attention – on purpose and non-judgementally- to feedback from their team. What if when leaders met with customers, they were in the present moment. They could be listening to the question the customer wants to solve, instead of presenting a pre-prepared answer. Mindfulness is the essence of connection – it means showing the other person that you value their time, ideas, and your relationship. No business that plans to stay in business can be too busy for that. So how do we break our current pattern? Here are some ideas:
(1) Find out what you are missing. Review recent customer data and employee engagement feedback. Ask your top talent and top customers how well your leaders listen to their feedback, respond to their needs, and understand their priorities. It doesn’t need to be a science project – a sample size will give you some valuable insights to start with.
(2) Stop. Look. Listen. Help your leaders reprogram their approach and their day. Have them look at their calendar and discuss their findings. Encourage them to stop triple booking themselves- help them set up a reasonable schedule. Ask them to look at where their time is being spent. Help them break their week down into time spent on tasks (emails, PowerPoints), meetings, team development, customer engagement, and personal development. Ask how they would ideally like to be spending their time and help them look for ways to make those changes. Listen to their frustration when they tell you they can’t do it all and agree with them. Give them permission to set a new paradigm where getting it all done is not the goal – the goal is responding to your employee/customer insights.
(3) Highlight successes and failures. Mindfulness is hard work. Share tips, tricks, and resources. Recognize managers who have set up best practices. Ask leaders – especially senior leaders- to share when they fall back into their old ways and what they missed as a result. New behaviors stick when they are reinforced and practiced. Remeasure your customer and employee feedback in a few months and assess the impact. Ask your leaders if they feel more focused on, more responsive to, and more connected with their customers and their teams.
Investing in mindfulness can pay dividends in the form of increased employee and customer engagement. So go ahead- put the phone down and email away- stop and look around. You don’t want to miss it.