Welcome to Business Leadership
Respectful Leadership: Mindfulness
The Operations Manager is presenting the costs for a planned renovation to the computer labs. She glances at the VP who is looking at his cell phone and frowning. The IT Manager is looking at both of them and wondering whether he should be worried about not getting the desperately needed upgrade. The VP stands up, gathers his belongings. “We’ll pick this up later.”
What just happened here? More importantly for the organization, what will happen next? In this scenario, the two managers are left to interpret the VP's reaction based on the current situation and the VP's past behavior. Unfortunately for the organization, their interpretation may be incorrect. Even more unfortunately, it may lead to reduced productivity as they put effort into interpreting rather than working.
Now imagine that the VP practices mindfulness. The mindful VP says, “We’ll pick this
up later. My reactions right now are not related to this meeting; they are personal. When I resolve this immediate issue, we will pick up our discussion of the renovation.” In this second scenario, the VP is mindful on two levels, first, self-awareness and second, situational awareness
Self Awareness is a critical leadership skill. Leaders with self-awareness run a constant self-scan in background mode. The self-scan is searching for data on feelings, non-verbal expressions, and word choices. This scan provides actionable information for better decision making. In the second scenario, the VP realizes that facial expression and body language are likely conveying the frustration and distraction caused by the text messages.
Being self-aware allows for more choices. The aware leader can choose to inform, to modify reactions, to use different words. Self-awareness opens the leader to more options for self-expression.
Situational awareness takes the second step. The situationally aware leader notes the impact of his or her responses on others. In the second example, the leader simply states to the team that the non-verbal communication they witnessed had a cause unrelated to their presentation. This allows everyone to relax and let go of the speculation and anxiety that occurred in the first situation.
The message to leaders is simple. Be aware of yourself and assess the impact of your body language and words on others. Then decide what actions will lead to the best benefit.