Institute Director Janice Marturano, Author at Institute for Mindful Leadership - Page 2 of 11

Are You Living On Autopilot? Mindful Leadership Training Brings You Back To The Present

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Is it July? What happened to May and June?

Stop for a minute. Do you ever feel this way? How could it already be July? It feels like it was just May.

Or do you ever look at the time and wonder, how could it be 6 p.m.? I’m exhausted but I’m not sure what I accomplished today. My “to do” list seems just as long, maybe longer, than it was this morning.

This certainly was often true for me. As a senior executive, my days were always filled with meetings and calls, and there was a “to do” list that was quite long. And so, I always felt I was busy, too busy in fact. But I also felt as though days, and often months, were slipping by without me noticing them. What was happening? I was living much of my life on autopilot and I didn’t know it.

If you are like most professionals in the workplace, you also go through your rushed day, filled with meetings and deadlines in a state of autopilot. Your body is in the room, but your mind is time travelling. It is busy with something other than the thing at hand. It may be planning for the next thing or ruminating about the last thing, or just drifting into places unknown. It is not where you want it to be…in the room.

And when you are not in the room, your influence is diminished in many ways whether you know it or not. For example, when you are in a meeting and your mind is still in the tough conversation from the last meeting, you miss what is going on, and you cannot fully engage with the group. You need to be present in body and mind to feel connected to others. And for them to feel connected to you. Presence is felt…and the opposite is true. When your body is in the room, but your mind is somewhere else, it is also felt. And it feels disrespectful.

Learning to notice when your mind has left the room and learning to escort it back to the present moment is one aspect of the training of mindful leadership. Twenty years ago, when I began my own practice, I quickly began to notice that I wasn’t having many of those “how could it be 6 p.m. already?” days anymore. And more importantly, it began to make a difference in the way I was leading-my life, my team and my family.

So, if you would like to have a taste of the training, try this little exercise for 5 minutes:

1. Right now, as you are sitting and reading, bring your attention to the feeling of your breath-the stretch of your ribs or belly with the inhale, and the softening with the exhale, just breathe, sustaining attention on the sensations.

2. When your mind begins to wander, escort it back to the sensations of your breath.

Simple but not easy, right? With practice, you will get more accustomed to noticing when your mind wanders away and to bringing it back. Then when you are in the meeting, you can sit and breathe (no need to close your eyes), and when your mind starts to slip away, you can bring it back to the room.

When you are attentive to the moments of your life, they are much less likely to slip away without you noticing. Just imagine how productive a meeting would be if everyone was paying attention! And just imagine what family dinner would be like if everyone put down the phones and connected for real.

I am excited to be a new Forbes.com contributor and will be offering musings about leadership in the 21st century along with tips and practices you can use to begin to explore mindful leadership training for yourself.

3 Steps to Better Decision Making

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Every day we are asked to make decisions. Some are of little consequence while others can literally change our lives and the lives of others. When those important questions arise, we can find it difficult to choose. We might feel paralyzed by an overload of input from others, or we might feel as though there is no clear ‘right’. So, are there ways a mindful leadership practice can help? Let’s look at 3 Steps to Better Decision-Making:  

Stop and Unplug
In a time when we are constantly tempted to divide our attention, it is important to cultivate your ability to focus your mind on the question to be decided. Good decision-making needs us to quiet our busy mind and body so we can open to all the ways of knowing available to us. Removing the external distractions is a good way to start. Turn off the technology and find a quiet place to focus on your breath for a few moments. When your mind becomes distracted, redirect it back to your breath. Feel yourself settling into the moment.

Define the question
It may not be what you think. One way of defining the question is to begin by calling to mind the issue or situation, and asking a more general question first: ‘what is called for now?’ In other words, step back from the specific question to one that is a little broader or more general. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to get to the precise answer to a narrower question. The smaller answer may be just that…small, rather than creative or breakthrough or compassionate.

Reflect
Once you begin to feel your body and mind settle into the present moment and you have defined the question, it is time for the final step-reflection. This is not analysis, or even thinking. It is approaching the question with open curiosity. Allow there to be some spaciousness around the question so the answer or answers can arise, generated by your inner wisdom. No need to go searching, the answer(s) will come to you. This decision-making reflection is also an opportunity for you to practice patience. Sometimes it may take a few dedicated reflections with your question to discover the answer. You already have everything you need to make those important decisions and the more you practice with this approach, the more confidence you will gain in your capacity to choose.

The Lost Art of Conversation – 5 Steps to Mindful Communications

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Last week we had an unusually warm winter day and I decided to go out and enjoy the lunch hour at a favorite local restaurant. As I walked toward the door, I was reminded of the power our senses have over our experiences. Smells of spices wafted through the air and made my stomach gurgle long before I crossed the threshold. I was ushered to a table by the head of the family that has owned the place for generations. It all felt welcoming and warm…until new guests arrived at the next table.

The new guests were a well-dressed mother and daughter, the child was about 9 years old, and clearly looked happy to be at the restaurant. As they sat down and were handed the menus, the girl started chatting about her choices for lunch while the parent immediately pulled out her phone and began to text. At some point, the girl stopped talking and reached in her backpack for her own phone. They never put them down again until the food arrived, and even then, would occasionally pick them up between bites.

This is not an unusual situation these days, but it left me feeling sad. The connection that could have been made that day was lost and the modeled behavior gave preference to texts over family. Texts do not substitute for human connection. Communication is multi-faceted, and mere letters on a screen do not convey warmth, sorrow, joy, the pure connection felt from a human being’s presence. The art of conversation is not a ‘nice to have’, it is critically important to our growth as human beings.
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Working with Change

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I was awakened very early this morning by a distinct chill in the air. Fall’s cooler temperatures had tapped me on the shoulder. Another reminder of the fact that everything changes, I thought, as I sleepily reached for another blanket. Summer had slipped away. It was time to meet a new season.

Of course, it is easy to see and feel the season’s changes. If we live in a climate with deciduous trees, for example, we notice the green leaves give way to beautiful colors, and then we get out the rakes! And we know that different seasons require us to meet them in ways that are unique to that time of the year. As fall approaches, we find the sweatshirts and sweaters, and we put away the shorts and flipflops.

We have come to expect these changes, and we prepare to meet them as they unfold. Read More