By L. Blake Harvey, founder and chairman at Lawrence Blake Group Int'l.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, mindfulness is defined as the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. And with regard to leadership, this is a perfect definition. I must note, however, mindfulness is a state of awareness that can be practiced in business, with your family and loved ones, and everywhere in between.
To most leaders today, mindfulness is a requirement for overseeing large staff, multiple divisions of service offerings, and original innovation processes. It's easy to understand why. As a leader, each day is filled with different situations, people, challenges, and opportunities. In order to maintain balance and not to mention sanity, it's important to keep a sort-of running file in your head, with easy access to all relevant information when needed. Mindfulness brings a wealth of benefits to not only you as a leader, but to all of those affected by the decisions you make.
In my opinion, the top five benefits of being a mindful leader include the ability to:
build stronger relationships and communicate effectively with employees.
better meet the expectations of customers, and limit over-promising.
find creative ways of having a positive impact in your community, and the world.
build stronger relationships with your family and friends.
see things the way they really are.
The ability to build stronger relationships and communicate effectively with employees.
With mindfulness comes awareness of one's thoughts and the actions that those thoughts yield. The purest reason for wanting to maintain awareness of your thoughts is to ensure you're showing respect to all those around you. With respect comes a lack of judgement, and a freedom to allow others to live their own lives, and, have authority over their own lives. When employees notice how easy it is to speak to you - and most importantly, when they know that you will not overreact, antagonize, or blame a situation on them - they will go the extra mile in the office, and they will be more inclined to take responsible risks.
Employees who feel safe will be easier to communicate with. Keep in mind, your staff doesn't necessarily need to practice mindfulness on their own in order for these benefits to become a reality. The mere act of seeing you on your A-game, and predominantly calm and in good spirits, will be enough to rub positive energy off on them.
Another benefit of mindful leadership among your employees is seen in the avoidance of emotion-driven conflict. If you are mindful of your interactions and appearance around employees, you'll be less likely to do anything to upset or hurt them. It's common to find leaders who are easily flustered and take their frustrations out on their staff. This leads to low employee morale, high employee turnover, and an environment of distrust.
The ability to better meet the expectations of customers, and limit over-promising.
Believe it or not, when we're not mindful of our own thoughts and actions, it's very difficult to consider the well-being of those around you. How can you consider the feelings of others when you're not taking your thoughts seriously? Consider this example. You're preparing for a meeting with a potential client, and the first thing on your agenda is to consider how you can bill them the maximum. Let's say you get to the meeting, and the first thing you do is give the pitch of your life, being thoughtful as to include everything that may make the potential client work with you. You talk up your talents, accomplishments, and connections. Before you know it, the meeting is over and you're back at the office with your fingers crossed, awaiting the next opportunity you'll have like this. Yes, of course you want to present potential clients with the pitch of your life, but on the same hand, you almost cannot offer them a genuine game plan unless you invest the time in listening to them.
Imagine, instead, that you prepared lightly for your meeting with a potential client, taking the time to prepare yourself both mentally and physically. Let's say, you attended the meeting with an open heart, with the sole intention of listening to that potential client - attempting to understand their goals, where they are most passionate, and the story that has brought them to the present moment. Let's say you use their story to create a custom game plan that keeps in mind what they are most passionate about, and the goals they'd like to achieve. This is the beginning of mindfulness in business, and all experienced leaders already have an understanding of what I'm trying to convey.
The truth is, it will be very difficult to meet the expectations of your customers, if you came up with those expectations yourself. Approaching all customers without an immediate game plan, or expectations of your own, is proof of your own mindfulness. Without the baggage we carry into new situations, we are free to truly hear our customers. They have dreams to inspire your work, and experiences that will teach you valuable lessons. In order to access your true potential, it’s important that you have an attitude that aims to be of service. Find ways to give of yourself and your expertise to your customers, and you'll notice them doing the same to you. When this synergy occurs, there won't be any over-promising, because you'll be aware of what it is that your customer really needs. Over promising in business can be a means of overcompensating for what you believe you are lacking.
The ability to find creative ways of having a positive impact in your community, and the world.
As mentioned, mindful leaders are always listening to those around them, and they pay close attention to their thoughts and actions. When you take this concept to the next level, you realize that there is a reason to practice mindfulness in all situations - to be happy and at peace. When you're in a state of happiness or you're peaceful, you're a creative genius! The ideas come freely to you, the words flow naturally out of your mouth, and you are making all the right moves at the right time. This is because you've let go of expectations, judgement, and limiting beliefs.
Mindful leaders use this to their benefit, especially when exploring ways of giving back through their work. Mindful leaders understand that problems are only as large as the amount of attention we give to them, so they channel their focus on positive avenues. By going inside, and being with your true self, you can connect to the creativity that will inspire monumental ways of giving back. Mindful leaders never let a budget stand in their way, because they know that where there is a will, there must be a way. Mindful leaders don't spread themselves too thin because they know that they can only complete tasks successfully if each and every one of them is executed mindfully. And most importantly, mindful leaders value the relationships they have built within their community, and harness those relationships to build a coalition of partners to help them in their endeavors. Combined, this leads to great philanthropic programs, that have a lasting impact on all those involved.
The ability to build stronger relationships with your family and friends.
Mindful leaders have amazing personal relationships because they have learned to not make those relationships about them. They have learned the power that comes with listening, and use the knowledge shared with them to consciously contribute to relationships with their family and friends. Mindful leaders also understand where all conflict or suffering originates, and know that those feelings cannot exist within a peaceful mind. This is because mindful leaders have come to know and believe that they are the only one with control over their emotions and reactions. This is probably one of the most important lessons anyone can learn, because it's benefits will last your entire life. Each and every living being has their own story, with their own emotions, and their own beliefs. Trying to change anyone's emotions or beliefs will always be a losing battle and cause nothing but friction. Instead, trust in the power within you, the power that creates universes, and know that those who are necessary to your experience will find their way in - and those who are causing you any suffering, were attracted into your experience to help you learn a lesson or get over your own limiting beliefs.
The ability to see things the way they really are.
It's also important to explore what the opposite of mindfulness looks like in leaders. Let me get something straight first - I only know what mindfulness is because I spent a great deal of time running my business from a point of unawareness. For me, this meant I was allowing my ego to dominate reasoning for the decisions I made. Don't get me wrong, I've always known myself to have a quiet and calm side, and I knew the level of responsibility placed on my shoulders by choosing to own a business. While I was running my business from a limited level of awareness, my plans took precedence, and for the most part, I was blind to everything else that came my way that didn't fit into "my plans". This lead to countless missed clients and opportunities, because I wasn't open enough to say yes to great ideas. Because I felt as though I had to make things work out myself to be successful, I wasn't allowing the universe to place the people and events into my life that would help in my expansion. I backed myself into a corner, unwillingly, and although I had great ideas - no one can do it all alone.
I realized I was at my best when collaborating with others, and leaving aside my expectations or personal goals. Meeting after meeting, I left my ego aside and just showed up. I noticed myself paying more attention to what others were saying, versus just waiting for my chance to speak. Then, as if out of the blue, all of the tools to aid in my personal and professional transformation started to appear in my life.
One day, about a year ago, over a celebratory dinner with a client I adore, I was given a book titled "The Astonishing Power of your Emotions" by Esther and Jerry Hicks. This book helped to change my life as I knew it. Then, as if the flow of the universe became more powerful, I began attracting more tools, especially in the form of books. Dr. Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, James Allen, Earl Nightingale, Neville Goddard, and Dr. David R. Hawkins, to name a few.
Book by book, and experience by experience, I felt myself growing into the person I knew I already was. Love, became my radiating force. I began going into every and any situation with an open-heart, and a feeling of knowing that the power that creates worlds helps to align my path with all opportunities for continued growth. Today, I can say I truly love myself, and every being who shares this big blue Earth with me. And since this shift in consciousness, my business has also shifted monumentally. In a year, I went from five staff members to over twenty, a thriving board of advisors, a probono arm of business that has helped over one hundred innovative organizations this year alone, and stability beyond belief. My personal relationships are stronger than ever, and I fully trust my higher self to guide me.
I share my story with you because I know that there are others out there just like me. I know what it's like to feel stuck, or as if you've exhausted all of our resources. My journey started with becoming just a little bit more mindful each day. There was no struggle, no hard work, and no walking on hot coals (although I'd be lying if I said the hot coals weren't already on my bucket list).