Mindful Management for Mindful Managers

mindful management for mindful managers

Mindful Management for Mindful Managers

I work with managers and leaders individually and in large and small businesses developing mindful management for mindful managers. Here’s what they all have in common:

They succeed despite the climate they create rather than because of it.

The Pain

A world of challenge and change makes us all vulnerable to anxiety, tension, and pressure. 

Listen to the mood in your workplace and at home. People are feeling disenfranchised. Experience tells them they are devalued, excluded, or dismissed. Even if it’s an unintended consequence, people feel diminished, less than human.

Now, look inside. Step back and notice the voice in your head. You probably noted it never stops. Analyze the voice closer and try to understand its’ need to get comfortable. It changes sides, flips its position, and leaps to different opinions adjusting continually. This is the incessant ‘mental noise’ that you hear about so often.

Most mental noise is made up of ‘psychic irritants’—worrying, resenting, scheming, frustration, disappointment, and annoyance with rejection. This is the underlying agitation that creates the climate that humans bring to every situation. See it in you and see it in others.

You can easily see this voice in action when you are angry with someone. Note how many times the inner voice tells that person off before you even see them. Again, this is the foundation we all use to shape the climate where we live and work.

Insight: mindful management for mindful managers

The bar is raised for managers. We are responsible for productivity (and in today’s world) the well-being of others. To be a good manager, we must first manage ourselves well—impartial, unruffled and self-controlled.

This requires knowing how to develop mindful management. Your team and your family need you to model the mindfulness way.

Recent research shows how elusive and difficult mindfulness is. By default, we spend almost 47% of our waking hours away from the presentthinking about things other than what we’re doing. In other words, nearly half the time, we are checked out, lost in thought, operating on autopilot.

Left to our natural tendencies, we are agitated by psychic irritants. When you add in mindlessness and autopilot, this insight pinpoints a foundational area of true personal growth that would transform everything in its path if pursued.

We are not talking about repressive regulation. But rather bringing a new foundational climate, the quality of mindfulness to the fray of management and the chaos of every-day-life.

 

Step One- mindful management for mindful managers: What is Mindful Management

Mindful management is when one brings the practice of mindfulness to management.

Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat Zinn says mindfulness is: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”  I have found that the best way to learn something new is to use the most straightforward language possible. And the simplest definition of mindfulness is noticing things. If you notice things, you are mindful. If you are not noticing, you are not mindful. Noticing is simply the heart of mindfulness.

You notice your team is edgy, short-fused, and distant. You notice your partner is tense and you’ve only been home two minutes. At a higher level of attention than most, you notice how your mood makes you feel and then how you make others feel.

Mindfulness is simple but not easy. As you focus on noticing, thoughts will arise as they always do for everyone. Without realizing it, your mind will wander and carry your noticing away to memories from the past or the promising events of the future. The practice of mindfulness is noticing the wandering mind and gently bringing it back.

William James, the first professor to offer a psychology course in the United States, noticed this when he commented, “The faculty of bringing back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character and will. No one is compos sui (master of oneself) if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.”

As we know, James was spot on in 1890 because almost 47% of the time we are ‘not there.’ Our attention is somewhere other than where we are.

So we’re here, but we’re not here. And that’s the big knot that contributes to the current climate.

Learning how to develop mindful management means you untangle the knot with your high-level attention. You bring a renewed focus to the task at hand, the supreme affairs of day-to-day management.

Kudos to you for pursuing this education par excellence!

What to expect

Initially, the benefits of knowing how to develop mindful management are practical. You’ll be more effective because noticing and redirecting your attention engages the prefrontal cortex section of your highly evolved human brain. This vast mass of grey matter governs executive functions making you more present in the faculties of self-awareness, judgment, problem-solving, ethical reasoning, and creativity.

You will contrast the people around you who’s natural tendency is to operate from their primitive hair trigger “fight or flight” brain. They don’t know how to develop mindful management. You’ll notice their obstinance, digging in, arguing, and fighting out of an instinctive fear reaction. Most people get entangled with the constant presence of psychic irritants.

In the later stages of mindfulness, you have integrated the mind, body, and spirit to build a whole and authentic self. You have a depth about you. You are intentionally balanced—a profound character and an impressive resume.

Your mindfulness practice has guided your development of an impressive inner cohesion. You are not thrown off course very easily.

Step Two-mindful management for mindful managers: Elevate Awareness

As noted above, awareness involves the brain’s executive functions. Wherever you are notice the climate. Increase your external awareness. See how what is going on around you shapes the mood and influences action. In slow motion, take a deeper look around and take stock—eyes, and heart wide open.

Negativity

Negativity is not inherent to circumstances. Complaining is negativity added to the situation. Observe how negative conditioning grows hidden in plain sight under the guise of everyday adult life. This is self-induced decline, momentum in the wrong direction. Pay close attention and you’ll see cynics are frustrated and disappointed idealists who lost their way, ran out of answers, and surrendered.

Not everyone around you accepts the idea that anxiety is acceptable, or incivility and conflict are the new standards.  Find these people. They are the low hanging fruit. They need your influence. Show them what is possible and make an immediate difference.

Use what you know about mindfulness to hone the best within you—generosity, integrity, fairness, and kindness. Make it a living dialog and watch how people are drawn to you.

Attention

Two words you’ll hear most associated with mindfulness are noticing and attention. Whether you are being challenged, criticized, or praised, whatever is happening to you is a real-time opportunity to notice and shift your attention from a passive wandering to active awareness.

You train yourself first to notice, then bring an objective, open quality of non-judging attention. This is how to create a space to self-regulate and find composure. You no longer lose yourself in frustration, disagreements, or conflict.

Mindful management for mindful managers is never having to say, “I don’t know what got into me?” 

Self-awareness

Deepening your self-awareness will make you strategic and intentional about connecting with others. You will continually influence in the upward direction. When you add to the climate rather than detract, you automatically improve the climate.

A mindful manager has a deep awareness of their emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and motives. They are highly sensitive and aware of how feelings affect their mood, decisions, and actions.

As a self-awareness reminder, ask yourself whether my decisions are based on prejudgment, reactions, or assumptions? Or do they come from inner awareness and integration of values, skill, and regard?

Become aware of tendencies in yourself then recognize them in others. Gradually you’ll see human nature’s need for understanding over discipline. You’ll respond with composure as opposed to reacting with emotion.

Mindful managers make their interactions additive. They know forcing people to consent creates friction and mistrust. Wrong situations wrong, everyone. Conflict reduces effectiveness and progress soon follows. People don’t need discipline. They need to be understood.

Step Three-mindful management for mindful managers: Meditation (your practice)

I was a pathetic manager before I started my mindfulness practice. Highly sensitive, a traumatic childhood, I took everything personally. As a beginner, you could say, my ambition exceeded my character.

Early on, I interpreted people and added judgments and labels about them to my inner mental noise. I managed based on my own personal identity of each person, the world, according to me. I believed what I constructed was reality. After creating more problems and enduring prolonged suffering, I realized that I was leading based on my version of reality.

The critical thing I learned early was to pause and listen to the voice in my head. I was not my thoughts. Understanding more, I grasped that I could hear the voice in my head, which meant I wasn’t the voice. I was listening to the voice. As I became still and listened more often, I noticed how listening changed my life.

The Mind

I started a stillness practice to bring composure into the fray of managing. For 10 minutes each day, I watched the voice talk. This showed me how (crazy) thoughts come in and exit. They are not relevant, and they don’t mean much. Protracted stillness revealed to me that the brain is an organ like any other. It is not to be trusted. It’s meant to serve, not to lead. It was then that I began using my mind rather than being used by it.

This thing up here, this consciousness, thinks it’s running the shop. It’s a secondary organ; it’s a secondary organ of a total human being, and it must not put itself in control. It must submit and serve the humanity of the body.” —Joseph Campbell.

There is a lot of truth to the old Buddhist saying, “What you are now is the result of what you were. What you will be tomorrow will be the result of what you are now.”

The consequences of an angry, resentful, and judgmental mind will follow you like a manure cart follows the horse that pulls it. The result of a purified mind becomes your shadow.

Meditation is the one thing that will help you cultivate mindfulness that you can call up in real-time when you need it most. It will purify the mind so you’ll begin to manage others with ‘clean’ energy, an open mind, and realistic perspectives.

Over the long-term, you will integrate the total human being—mind, body, and spirit to build wholeness and an uncommon authenticity. To be authentic is to be free. You are free to be you, no longer pushed and pulled by people’s behavior, thoughts, your history. A mindful manager is an authentic manager.

Meditation

I could write an entire book with everything I learned about meditation. I’ll hit the highlights that you need. The primary thing is to start. Meditation is about discovering things and seeing the truth for yourself. You may hear advice from others, but your experience is all that counts. You are the expert of you.

I read all the books, attended the workshops, and worked with some of the best. From all that, I follow some basics, but I meditate based on what I designed to serve me well. Remember this, it is comforting to learn of a new idea, but it is liberating to know for yourself that it works.

I recommend you begin by meditating (or being still) for 10 minutes. If you get comfortable with that, go to thirty minutes. After 30 minutes, most beginners see diminishing returns.

I don’t sit cross-legged or use a cushion. I sit in a chair. Meditation, for me, is simply stillness. Sometimes I meditate (get still) to watch objectively. Is there a buildup of fear? Am I anxious?  That points me to areas where attention is required, and lessons are learned.

Or as I move through the day and find myself anxious, rather than block it out, I get still and meditate on that and see what’s there, how it feels. I explore my anger meditating, detached, and inquiring. Exploring these psychic irritants sheds new light. You’ll increase your understanding and you will feel less threatened or fearful.

You become an observer rather than an actor. You’ll watch life’s problems rather than losing yourself or being hijacked by them.

As you get more experience, things may be revealed to you when you are not still as you move through the day, but, in the beginning, just getting still takes practice. We get pumped up much easier than we slow down and become still.

As mentioned earlier, your mind will wander as you try to take your focus deeper. Don’t judge or criticize yourself. Just follow James’s advice, gently bring your wandering attention back.

I also recommend never getting too far from your meditation/stillness practice. At work, take 10 minutes each day to call up this priority.  The same way you stay near the fire to keep warm, stay close to your meditation/stillness practice to deliver your best self.

Don’t get hung up on terms, practices, or dogma. Vipassana meditation, for example, is what Buddha practiced. The name means to see things as they really are. It’s a technique that aims to eradicate mental impurities and the resulting happiness and liberation.

Now, couldn’t you ignore the term and make its aim your target? People argue over technique, names, concepts—and these are people who can sit cross-legged for 60 minutes! “You’re not doing it right,” they’ll say. Free yourself from rigid terminology and someone else’s philosophy. Use that freed up energy to make your practice work for you. The one certain criterion to measure your success is if you are feeling more peaceful within.

Not agitating the world or by it agitated, they stand above the sway of elation, competition, and fear. — The Bhagavad Gita

Keep the goal at hand. We are working to become mindful managers. This is done by mindfully operating from our higher intrinsic faculties of self-awareness, judgment, problem-solving, ethical reasoning, and creativity. We want to bring the best that is within us to influence the climate of the supreme affairs of day-to-day management.

The best within you knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. The deepest you, your Presence, gives you the strength and courage to stand for those things, without which humankind cannot survive….. Love that conquers hate. Peace that flows out of you and rises triumphant over war. And justice that proves more powerful than greed.

Make mindful management for mindful managers a living dialog and show people the easy access to the goodness that is within. Make goodness attractive!

Education, work, and society changes you on the outside. Cultivating mindfulness changes you from the inside. Once you see yourself exactly as you are now, you’ll also better understand human nature, why people do what they do. Then change will flow naturally. You won’t need to struggle to force yourself to build habits.

But arriving at that insight takes time. You must see yourself without filters of illusion and judgment, and this is hard to do. But it’s possible. It’s the journey worth taking.

What is impossible is bending the world to your likes and dislikes. If you make lists on how the world needs to be for you to be productive and peaceful, you’ve corralled yourself. You’re only free when the world meets your criteria.

The ultimate secret is to stay open. Do not allow anything in life to be so vital that you close your heart over it. When something gets close, call up your mindfulness, notice. Redirect your attention to honor the best within you. Respect the situation, allow it.

Do this enough, and you’ll never close to anything. When you get to this state, you’ll have an energy level that is off the charts.

In closing, here are some comments from managers to demonstrate what is waiting for you when you incorporate mindful management for mindful managers.  

Brian, before your workshop, I was completely unaware that my thoughts were completely untrue mind activity, yet I believed them. I followed them as truth and they influenced my mood. They changed my behavior because I acted on them. I was trapped in believing false mind activity. Your workshop set me free. I am now a mindful manager and free from being shackled to my anxiety and anger.

 

Brian, I spent my time as a manager trying to control and manipulate outside circumstances so I would feel OK. It made managing stressful and exhausting. When I let go of needing others to behave a certain way in order for me to be OK, I found that my feeling OK had nothing to do with anyone outside of myself. I went from uptight manager to a peaceful and mindful manager.

 

Brian, I stopped in my tracks when you asked me, “Who’s in charge up there?” You showed me that I wasn’t using my mind, my mind was using me. I was shackled to what my mind would feed me and it was painful. The pain is now gone!

I would love your thoughts, comments and feedback about this article and your mindful management efforts. Please get in touch!

 

 

© Brian Braudis 2020, All rights reserved

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