INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
There’s a good chance you’re underestimating how important it is to be mindfully present. Research by Bain & Company showed that among 33 leadership traits, being mindfully present was the #1 most important trait. Other research from Singapore Management University shows a direct correlation between a leaders’ level of presence and team performance. But staying present in the moment is no walk in the park. Here’s how to do so:
1. Accept that multi-tasking is a myth. You simply can’t be fully present and multi-task. Ohio State University research shows multitaskers are actually less likely to be productive, yet they feel more emotionally satisfied with their work, thus creating an illusion of productivity. In fact, it’s estimated up to a whopping 40% of productivity is lost due to multi-tasking.
2. Catch when your attention is drifting. Excuse yourself and admit where you are mentally if you must – people will notice either way. Write yourself simple reminders to stay present like “Don’t zone out, zone in”, or “Be mindful, not mind full”, or “Run your mind, don’t let it run you.” Anytime you catch yourself drifting, ask “What has my attention right now?”
3. When frazzled, freeze. It’s easy to zone out when you’re tired or when you’re running into your sixth back to back meeting. But don’t let that next meeting get started without freezing for a moment. Ask for a pause, go get a drink of water and clear your head. End the previous meeting a bit early to allow space for this.
4. Feel the meeting. Don’t just passively take in information during a meeting. Notice what’s in front of you – the people, the passions, the emotions, the energy, the intention of the information being transmitted. It helps hold your attention.
5. Send signals of absorption. Put physical mechanisms in place to help you show your full-on presence. For example, maintain eye contact, nod at important points, stop to clarify, take notes, and openly demonstrate that you’re really listening. Such triggers send the right message and help you fully receive messages.
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake I often make)
Being an entrepreneur whose business centers on speaking, writing, and creating content, I’m always working hard to make sure my calendar is full. After all, gotta make hay while the sun shines, right? But it leads me to, too often, overpack my schedule and say yes to too much. I act like having something scheduled every day is the truest measure of my success. I end up not leaving room for opportunities that might arise. And as I’m learning, those spaces always get filled, either with a business opportunity that comes up late, with glorious time to plan for the future, or with much-needed nothing—a chance to recharge. So, learn from my ongoing mistakes here. Intentionally leave some empty spaces in your calendar, filling it later on with last-minute opportunities, or lost-minutes of solitude.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to work for or interview many C-suite execs. Here are a few of my favorite pointers for success they shared – tips from the top if you will.
• True character arises in times of crisis. Use adversity to show yours.
• Don’t let the company machine grind away your original thinking.
• Make any assignment a great one.
• Working with the B-team ain’t an excuse. Chemistry & teamwork beats biology & talent.
• Zap people with energy. Don’t sap.
• Be authentic, trustworthy, transparent. Nothing’s more transparent when you’re not.
• Chase authenticity, not approval.
• The only comparison that matters is to who you were yesterday.