Recently, I integrated a new habit into my normal day-to-day life that has created profound change and inspired new ways of thinking. Let me first say that this practice is so unlike me, so foreign, so…new age…that I’m still surprised I even tried it. And even more surprised how impactful it’s been on me! I’ve shared this practice with my team, with my clients, and with my family.
What is it? I started meditating and practicing mindfulness. It’s a few minutes every day. An intentional practice where I allow space to just…be. Kooky, right?
I know what you’re thinking – how in the world can meditation and mindfulness have anything to do with my law firm and how I lead my team? Well, it actually has everything to do with it. There is growing evidence that suggests leaders who practice mindfulness and become, in essence, mindful leaders are more likely to garner deep respect from their team, influence, inspire, and motivate others, and create a safe and healthy workspace. In order to demonstrate this, let’s take a look at two different leaders. One who does not employ mindfulness and one who does:
Tom – The Frustrated (and Frustrating) Leader:
Tom wants to see results. His team walks on eggshells around him because he’s known for huge mood swings and shocking levels of unpredictability. He’s not steady. In fact, being in his presence is like riding a roller coaster. His team members never feel like they’ve got his full attention. He’s always on his phone, responding to emails, or taking calls. His “hold on a minute” finger often goes up in the middle of conversations.
For this reason, his team members just try not to bother him. He demands his team sacrifice like he had to and expects team members to work long hours and deliver completed projects as quickly as possible. “Just get it done,” is his motto. While he constantly and loudly demands results, his team is often unable to deliver. He doesn’t take the time to check in with his team and newly onboarded team members often only know him because his name is on the sign. He’s an intimidating, unpredictable, disconnected, and frustrated leader.
Tim – The Mindful Leader:
Tim takes a different approach. Tim takes the time to connect with his team. When they speak with him or attend a meeting, they feel like he’s locked in and listening. They feel heard. He seeks out and cultivates relationships with his team members. They feel connected and committed to him and to the cause of the firm. He listens to all of the information about a problem or situation and takes the time to digest it before he reacts.
He allows his team to speak openly and candidly to him. In return, they feel empowered. He constantly shares his mission and vision for the firm with his team. And, maybe more importantly, he quietly and steadily embodies the essence of that mission and vision. He shows his team how to serve the firm’s clients; he doesn’t just tell them. When things go wrong, he’s steady and non-reactive. The way in which he handles moments of disruption or chaos serve to anchor his team, and they’ve learned to follow his example. They have, in fact, become more equipped at handling problems without needing to seek him out. His leadership style is best described as calm, connected, steady, and mindful.
We all know and have worked with or for a Tim and a Tom. Heck, we’ve all been a Tim or a Tom at some point in our career. I know which leader I’d rather work for and which I’d rather be! It takes work to be a Tim. It takes an understanding of ourselves and a true emotional intelligence that comes from looking inward.
The path to becoming a mindful leader
Becoming a mindful leader takes a refocusing of one’s approach. Learning how to remain centered takes time, dedication, and commitment. It’s much easier to react quickly than it is to approach whatever happens with calmness and balance. Remaining grounded is the real key, but understanding how to do that in a way that allows you to embrace the ideals of being a mindful leader is much more complicated. The ideals of being a mindful leader include:
The time put into practicing mindfulness pays off dividends, and it is a practice that you can hone over time as you learn more about yourself. There are plenty of books and online resources that can help you with mindfulness. Personally, I have begun my dipping a metaphorical toe into the deep waters of meditation by using the Calm app. There are other apps that make the practice feel approachable and seamless. The few minutes I have been taking in the morning and afternoon to stop and practice mindfulness have been a form of self care for me that I can’t seem to stop talking about to my friends and colleagues. It’s the art of putting in the work on something that does work on you. That’s a good way to spend a few minutes of the day. I find myself calmer, more balanced, and better able to handle whatever the day throws at me. I challenge you to take a step into the new age (don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you’re trying it).