Very early on in my life I learned that it was best to find a “win, win” solution. At first that meant sharing the last cookie with my little sister so that there would be none of the fighting that would lead to tears, or worse yet, lead to Mom’s solution that “if you can’t get along, no one will have any.”
Over the years, the training involved more complex issues, and wasn’t always a matter of compromise. Rather, I learned that understanding another’s perspective, their wants or needs, made it much easier to find the “win, win” than if you remained fixated on what you wanted or needed. Acquiring this understanding took time up front, and it took the willingness to connect with the other person or group on a level that was broader and deeper than seeing them only as the other party. But, without exception, in the many years that I would ultimately negotiate multi-million dollar deals, agreements and settlements, if I could make this connection and speak in terms that addressed the other’s objectives, it led to a more creative and ultimately satisfying resolution for my client, and for the other party.
Today, in a world that measures time in Internet seconds, and that fills every moment with potential distractions, the discipline needed to take the time to do a truly great job and to make these deeper connections takes specialized mental training, the training of mindful leadership. Just as an athlete needs specialized training to excel, those in positions of influence need access to the mental training needed to allow them to bring all of their capabilities to bear.
Our frequently chaotic days entice us to live in an autopilot mode just to get through the day. We react quickly so we can try to find the light at the end of the tunnel. And yet, these are the times when I have found it is most necessary to stop, when I need to see clearly what is around me and how I am meeting what is here, and when I often most need to skillfully choose to respond with focus and compassion, rather than mindless reactivity. When we meet opportunities and challenges with skillful choices, we lead with excellence, rather than simply get things done.
This mental training is about more than making good deals. The women and men who make daily choices that affect others and that affect our world are also an underleveraged resource for addressing many of society’s issues. Not only do these people have the capacity to find the “win-win,” these people have the potential to find the “win-win-win,” the solution that is good for their organization, good for the other organization, AND good for the community.
It isn’t an impossible dream; in fact it may be our best hope. In the decades of working with influencers from government, for-profit, NGOs and non-profit organizations, most of the leaders I met were people with warm hearts and bright, analytical minds. And the ideal solution for all of them often included creating something that would benefit the organization they worked for and address the community issues in their neighborhoods, or in the world. But the ideal too easily can get hijacked by overloaded schedules and too many distractions, and it takes more than great analysis and a warm heart to change what has been decades in the making.
We need greater awareness from everyone, including those who already have a large ripple effect on society by the very nature of their current roles.
Mindful leadership training develops each person’s capacity to be fully aware of what is all around us and equally aware of what is deep inside. As we bring together the training of mindfulness and its specific applications to leadership challenges, we begin to develop the potential to lead with excellence-to lead with focus, clarity, creativity and compassion. We notice when we are on autopilot and when we are not really listening. We learn to stop, to ask what is called for in this situation rather than react by giving an answer from the “old playbook.”
In the stopping, we are able to listen deeply to our sense of right and wrong, our sense of equity, our caring hearts and the creativity of our minds. We can begin to ask the question, ‘Is there a ‘win-win-win’ here?” We can ask if it is possible today to make a choice that will have a positive ripple effect for our organizations, for our clients, customers and patients, and for our communities.
If you care to try a small taste of mindful leadership training, begin by taking a few moments right now to stop, allowing the body and mind to rest in the stillness and to touch the values at the core of who you are, and then ask yourself if an issue before you right now might have a “win-win… win” solution?
By Janice Marturano
Founder and Executive Director, Institute for Mindful Leadership