Is Your Mind Full? Mindful Leadership with Focused Attention

Is Your Mind Full? Mindful Leadership with Focused Attention October 16, 2015

I’ve been a fan of mindfulness for some time. Mindfulness involves the practice of being in the moment and not allowing the past or the future to take over your brain.

Mindfulness is an Eastern principle that deals with a heightened awareness of how we interact with our environment and how we interact with others. When you are mindful, you are giving 100% attention to whoever you are speaking with or the situation at hand. I sometimes teach mindfulness in my executive coaching practice since it builds emotional and social intelligence.

Sean Carey, CEO of HD Interactive (, participates in a CEO Roundtable that I facilitate. Sean recently attended one of the Google sponsored workshops on mindfulness developed by Chade-Meng Tan. These workshops also culminated in the best-selling book, Search Inside Yourself. When asked about the benefits of mindfulness, Sean commented: “The breathing and meditation you learn to stay mindful, was a big deal for me. I realized that I hold my breath a lot which can make you anxious. Being mindful in a conversation gives me complete focus. You can use the time gained to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and better present information from their frame of reference.”

Wow, I thought – one of the basic building blocks of teaching others empathy (an emotional intelligence competency) is to put yourself in the other person’s place and stay open to what they are saying. Sean figured out that he could use the extra time usually taken up by letting his mind wander and take it into a positive direction by genuinely listening to the other person and understanding where they are coming from first. A person can listen about 4-6 times faster than another speaks so there’s lag time. You can stay mindful and focus on the dialogue or you can let your mind stray. People talking with you can tell the difference. As Sean says, “I like to multi-task too, but when you are speaking with others, they deserve the attention. If you don’t, your relationship suffers.”

Staying a mindful leader can be a daunting challenge. With competing demands and doing more with less in the fast-paced, multitasking culture we live in, even thinking about being mindful is difficult. Yet, when I’ve conducted organizational assessments and interviewed hundreds of employees about who are the best leaders and why, consistently they single out certain managers as excellent leaders because they “make the time,” “listen to what I’m saying – really listen,” and “they make me feel like at that moment, what I have to say is the most important thing to them.”

Sean shared a technique he learned in the training that helps him a lot to practice mindful leadership as the CEO of a fast paced company; it’s the SBNRR approach: Stop, Breathe, Notice, Reflect and Respond. “When I find negative things going on or if I’m stressed, I use this simple process a lot,” he states. “You don’t have to make this stuff complicated.

Do you practice mindfulness? What works for you? Learn the key to mindful leadership in your organization by joining the Key Associates Twitter #LeadershipChat on October 26th at 1:30PM EST.

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