Article Archives - Institute for Mindful Leadership

What is Leadership Excellence?

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What is Leadership Excellence?

Everyone is a leader. And everyone has the capacity to lead with excellence. After all, leadership is not about titles or management roles. Leadership, at its core, is about influence. And every one of us, for better or worse, has an influence every day. Each choice we make has an influence on our own life, as well as our families, friends, colleagues, workplaces, communities and the environment…for better or worse. The work of mindful leadership training is to begin to see how we can train our mind to be present, and open ourselves to our own wisdom, so that we can more often influence “for better,” and less often influence “for worse.”

If you take a few moments to think about this, you might be able to recall the actions or words of someone who has had a strong positive influence on you, someone who inspired you. Perhaps they fit the conventional definition of a leader, but it is just as likely that they did not have any official leadership title. Those who “influence for better” are leaders because they make a difference, and, more importantly, because they inspire those around them to make a difference.

Likewise, those who “influence for worse” may or may not have a leadership title. The influence of the choices they make can range from benign neglect to intentional harm, and everything in between. Those affected can become disillusioned, apathetic, disengaged or just plain exhausted.


See for yourself: A reflection on excellence in leadership

Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit and close your eyes. Take a few breaths and settle into the chair. Now call to mind the image of a person who has had a strong, positive influence on you. Someone who really touched your life. They might be at work, at school, in the community or in your family…someone who influenced “for better.”

Take your time, make the image as detailed as you can as if you could bring that person into the room. When you are ready, ask yourself “Why this person?” What was it, or is it about this person that you experienced?

Try not to analyze this question, just see what words or phrases arise. What did you notice, feel, see about this person’s way of being that touched you, that inspired you? Sit with this reflection for a while. When you are ready, write down the words that arose. These are the attributes of excellence. These are the words that describe leading “for better.”

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 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.

CNBC Video: Mindfulness for Type A’s: Janice Marturano shares the solution at CNBC’s work summit

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Long days. Difficult conversations. Deadlines. Pressure to perform amidst an ever growing number of distractions. These are just some of the challenges facing executives and employees at companies big and small. The result? Stress, anxiety, and lack of focus, to name a few. Enter Janice Marturano, a former General Mills executive shares how she created a solution…

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“4 ways to boost your focus and brainpower at work” by CNBC

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Like most busy professionals, Janice Marturano was working long hours, putting out fires and dealing with nonstop demands not only inside the office but outside as well. Vice president of public responsibility and deputy general counsel at General Mills, the then 43-year-old was married with school-age children, president of the board for a large nonprofit and the daughter of aging parents.

“I was a 21st-century juggler,” she said at CNBC’s @ Work Talent + HR Summit on Tuesday in New York City.

In 2000 Marturano received a call from her CEO asking her to lead a team of people to get a multibillion-dollar deal approved by the FTC, she said. The deal, intended to take six months, dragged on for 18. “The team and I were working seven-day weeks, and I sent my family away twice without me. Six months in, my mother passed away. I had no time to grieve. I do what busy professionals do; we play hurt, push it away. Six months after that, my dad also passed away. The deal was over, but I was profoundly aware that I had lost something.”

At the advice of a physician friend, she decided to take some time off from work to attend an intensive retreat for executives in Arizona called the Power of Mindfulness.

Just what is mindfulness? It is the art of being fully present and aware of where we are and what we’re doing, without reacting or being overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Something most people in this 24/7/365 world find impossible to do.

Read More at the CNBC website