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Mastering Mindfulness

Mindfulness, or being actively present in any given moment, can seem like a monumental challenge to master, especially in today’s time pressured, multitasking, busy-laden workplace.

One organisation making mindfulness more accessible for its employees is Google.  Their strategy is simple….fresh air, gentle exercise, and the space to be alone in thought.  At Googleplex, their global HQ, people transport themselves between campus offices and buildings by way of push bike.

Dr David Peterson (Director of Leadership and Coaching for Google) uses his daily bike rides between meetings to become more mindful.  As he rides from one building to the next, Dr Peterson asks himself a series of questions which enable him to become more present in the moment.

What am I hearing?

What am I seeing?

What am I smelling? 

What am I feeling emotionally? 

Where is my head at?

And finally – how do I bring my best self to today? 

He can always measure how stressed out he is by how far he gets through these questions!

Google bikes are effective in encouraging mindfulness.

Google bikes are effective in encouraging mindfulness.

You may not have Google’s bikes at your disposal, but becoming more mindful and present in the moment is possible for anyone.  As a leader, practicing mindfulness regularly is a sure fire way to become a better one.

Ten years ago, mention the word mindfulness within a corporate environment and you would likely receive a few sniggers or snide remarks about yoga, kaftans and touchy feely stuff.

However, now the concept is no longer relegated to the sidelines and has assumed its rightful place in leadership development circles.  More and more within my coaching practice I am seeing the words “mindfulness” and “being present” pepper conversations about successful leadership.

The research is compelling.  There is strong evidence mindfulness helps to reduce stress, enhance curiosity, increase openness and acceptance of others and self, enables a deeper understanding of the people we interact with.*

Mindfulness – “being fully present, nonjudgmental and consciously aware of what is happening around us”* offers leaders many benefits.

But how can we practice mindfulness in the midst of a calendar loaded with more than we can possibly accomplish, and the ‘crazy-busyness’ of many senior executives’ lives?

Ironically, although mindfulness can be easy to begin, it can be very difficult to maintain.

As a state, mindfulness is not a quality that some individuals possess and others lack. On the contrary, as argued by Kabat-Zinn (2005), attaining a mindful state of consciousness is an inherent human capacity—a claim implying that most people have been (or at least can be) mindful at one point or another.

How many times have you found your mind wandering in that meeting or one on one with your direct report?  The next time this happens, notice your thoughts and gently bring yourself back to the present.

An easy and simple way to start practicing mindfulness is to take a leaf out of David’s book and ask yourself some simple questions such as – right now, what am I seeing, what am I feeling, what am I sensing?  What is my breathing doing?

Practicing mindfulness several times a day is a simple but effective antidote to the action orientated pattern of daily life.

Experiment with it for a week (or even a day) and see what you notice.  I would love to hear your feedback.

*Dr David Peterson (ICF Conference, Australia, March 2013)

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8 Comments

  1. […] particularly for those of us who link action with productivity. See here for more on reflection, mindfulness and […]

  2. […] practising mindfulness when you are stressed […]

  3. […] way to help improve our ability to ‘do as I do’ is the practise of mindfulness. Merely noticing our own behaviour and what we say is an important step to leading by example.  In […]

  4. […] working, what’s not, how they ‘are’ as a team. When a leader practices mindfulness (click here to read my blog on how to master […]

  5. […] E-Bay, there are two meditation rooms at the company’s San Jose office, set up to encourage mindfulness, reflection and to help employees better manage […]

  6. […] It is a practice of mindfulness. Click here to see why practicing mindfulness is the […]

  7. […] busy, action oriented, outcome addicted corporate world. Whether it is for a minute (in terms of mindfulness) a week (in reference to a holiday) or a year (in terms of a career sabbatical to pursue a bucket […]

  8. Kate Burton on April 20, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Suzi this is exactly what Pilates practice brings to my life . When I am teaching a class I I focus on what I see, how I feel about it and what I sense is the best way to facilitate change and awareness. Forever bringing the class back to their breath which always focuses the mind to the present.
    How lucky and grateful am I too make this practice my livelihood !?

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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