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Mindful Leadership – Balancing a “Fixing” and “Doing” Mindset with a “Being” and “Sensing” Mindset

In my years of teaching Mindful Leadership courses and workshops, I am often faced with a particular tension. From the first moment of class, I am peppered with important questions like “how will this course change my work as a leader?” and “how will this work fix how our organization and teams function?” I am faced with people’s hopes of having a single course or workshop help leaders be “less burned out” or “more effective.”

What I can say to these questions is a resounding YES – mindfulness can lead to decreased burnout and to greater leadership effectiveness and impact – though it is not a quick fix. Rather than a way to “fix,” mindfulness is an ongoing practice, inviting us to shift how we typically relate to ourselves and others. It involves pausing, noticing our judgments and habitual ways of “being” and “doing,” letting go of what does not serve to “letting come” greater possibilities within us and around us (over and over and over..).

Thus the tension: how to help people by teaching them ancient practices that move away from “doing” or “fixing” to simply “being” in the present moment with curiosity, compassion, and nonjudgement? How to teach them that to help themselves or fix their organization, they actually need to stop trying so hard to fix themselves and their organizations? The work is to first learn practices and frameworks to be with what is present within us.

Yet, each workshop, whether 1 hour or 4 hours, each class whether 6 weeks or 8 weeks, I see the possibility for making these changes toward healthier relationships, improved communication, greater innovation, and organization culture shifts. Seeing exhausted and frazzled leaders and employees connect with what gives them hope, with what makes them most vitalized and effective, with what connects them most to each other – I too feel hope and excitement.

Here’s the thing, though, what people experience and learn in Mindful Leadership workshops and courses will only be sustained with intentional, daily practice – a practice that does not require perfection (it actually involves embracing imperfection). It involves intention and commitment to “being” with ourselves and others in ways which are usually different from how we typically are in our lives – this can be exciting and freeing, and can also be anxiety-provoking and unnerving. This is one of the reasons working with a mindfulness teacher or coach, especially in a group or class, can be especially helpful and important.

I have learned so much from those who have attended my courses and workshops about mindful leadership and the impact mindfulness can have on our lives and on our impact in our relationships and communities. Here are just a handful of lessons learned:

  • Learn about ways these mindfulness practices support your goals and work. This learning and understanding is especially helpful when we are asking ourselves to do something that is unfamiliar or different from our habitual ways of functioning, often rooted in cultures of “doing” and “busyness.” It’s helpful if we understand that pausing and practicing mindfulness, especially during our most busy times, will usually lead to greater productivity, to less mistakes, to improved communication, etc.
  • Commit to a daily mindfulness practice – start with what works, even if it’s 1 minute, 2 minutes, or 5 minutes. Also, the structure of a course and the connection with a mindfulness teacher and/or learning community, supports our ability to begin and sustain our mindfulness practice.
  • Create a community/culture of mindfulness – If you are leader, manager, or influencer in your organization or team, you are in an especially good position to model and share your experience of mindfulness practices. Giving the “okay” for people to take time to pause during their work days for mindfulness practices, including their busiest times, is important for reinforcing these practices and their impact.
  • Remember that this is a life-long practice – you can continue to come back to these practices, even if you have missed days, months, (even years) of practice. We can always start again.

Mindful Leadership involves cultivating one’s own mindfulness practice, including reflection and inquiry around one’s impact in the world, as well as mindful engagement and action.

My Mindful Leadership Courses are experiential and applied, where participants engage in mindfulness practices, inquiry, and dialogue. A variety of highly relevant and empirically-supported mindfulness and organization change frameworks, theories, practices, and concepts are interwoven throughout the course, including: Theory U, Appreciative Inquiry, Process-Oriented Psychology, Neuroscience of Mindfulness/Meditation, and Emotional and Social Intelligence.

Fall 2019 Introduction to Mindful Leadership Course, open to all community members and students, will be offered on Saturdays from 9am-2pm on Saturdays: Sept. 28th, Oct. 12th, Nov. 9th at Edgewood College, Monroe Street Campus, Madison, WI. Cost: $695 Register