When we’re meditating, our minds will often start to wander. They might go off on a stream of consciousness for several minutes before we catch ourselves and bring them back. Often, we think of the mind wandering as a failure, and yet, in fact, the real success is not in keeping the mind from wandering but in the bringing it back and beginning again.
The sages define suffering as wanting things to be different than they are.
The experience of gratitude, however, renders the complete opposite effect. When we cultivate a feeling of appreciation, we feel happy, maybe even blessed. Gratitude requires a mindful attention to what is good in your life. When we’re not mindful, we are likely to give all of our attention to the squeaky wheel while losing perspective for the well-oiled ones.
Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary?
One of the benefits of mindfulness is, to paraphrase Viktor Frankl, the space it creates between stimulus and response. In that space between, we find choice. Mindfulness then creates time for us to choose our response. (Over time, the practice of making that choice helps us to create new neural pathways, which then become our new default responses.) One such choice is the words we use, or more generally, what we give voice to.
Over twelve years ago, I bought a refrigerator magnet about finding peace. I knew very keenly that the people I loved the most needed me to be calmer in my heart. The quote on the magnet challenged my inherent belief that I would only find peace when my kids were both in school all day, the house was cleaner, my job was better, my extended family stopped being so annoying, I finished writing my first book and got it published, and the stars aligned perfectly. The refrigerator magnet helped me see that equanimity is an inside job, independent of external circumstances.
Sometimes, investing time sitting quietly, can be perceived as self-indulgent navel-gazing. Here I present nine reasons why mindfulness is the best thing you can do to help others.
One: Meditation helps slow down your reactivity between stimulus and response, thus enabling you to carefully choose your response to, say, critical comments or back-talking teenagers.
How your body aligns in meditation is important, whether you are sitting on the floor or in a chair. It’s essential to feel a firm connection with the floor (either through the “sit bones” — the lower portion of the pelvis — or through the feet). It’s also always appropriate to keep the spine long.
Morning Resolutions (spoken like a mantra) are a great way to begin or complete your daily meditation. A morning resolution sets your intention for the day and brings it to the forefront of your mind, thus reinforcing your most deeply held values.
Gandhi suggested that “the first act of every morning be a resolve such as this:
Creativity is the ability to make connections between two or more things in a unique manner. For many people, creative expression is one of the joys of life, and for others it is also part of their livelihood. A certain line in a poem or song lyric, or a color used in a painting can enhance our experience of life and allow us to see the world in a new way.
The idea of mindfulness is that there is more happening than what we perceive from the thinking mind. There is a deeper level of insight and knowing that comes when we bring our full attention to the present moment. The thirteenth and fourteenth-century Sufi poets wrote bodies of work which capture the experience of awakening more fully through a settled mind.
Don’t have time to meditate? There’s an old parable about the meditation guru directing his acolyte to meditate for an hour. The acolyte responds that he doesn’t have time to meditate for an hour. “Okay,” says the guru. “Then meditate for two hours.” The lesson here is that the moment you’re too busy to meditate is the moment you need it most.
Most people who earn a managerial position where they must now begin communicating with an expanded staff are not there because their communication skills are outstanding. Rather, they are really good at what they do. This skill causes them to assume the new managerial position will be easy. However, what can happen is that, inexplicably, those beneath them actually diminish in performance. Why?
When you reach out to a coach, it’s usually because you have a desire to make a change. Your desires could be business-oriented, but they could also relate to other parts of your life. Maybe you want to have a healthier lifestyle. Maybe you want to improve your work-life balance. Whatever your endgame is, a coach’s job is to help you reach it.
Don’t Mismanage Your Best Assets
Employees are the most important assets of any company. There’s a problem that many organizations have, though. When they invest in employees, there is a tendency to think of those individuals statistically.
If you want self-motivated, effective employees to stick around, you can’t treat them like numbers. Maximizing retention means maximizing employee satisfaction, even employee fulfillment, and making them feel valued. This is done better through coaching than through management which may tend to treat workers like numbers. You’ve got to be a coach, not a human resource manager with a mindset to treat employees like numbers. To condense it down: you want to be a leader, not a boss.
There’s a reason HR doesn’t generally manage loan officers or salespeople. They additionally aren’t often involved in managing teams where an entrepreneurial edge is necessary. Why? Fear of losing a job doesn’t motivate a person to excellence; it motivates them into being invisible. HR managers don’t exclusively hire and fire people, but this is what takes up a lot of their time. Accordingly, fear tactics predominate employee perceptions of some HR managers.
As an executive, you cannot afford to think in a way that is rooted in fear tactics. Such thinking builds a wall between you and workers. You don’t want a wall, you want a relationship—employees are the most important assets of your company, after all. The best way to enable them toward being profitable is to have a coaching mindset.
Coaching Toward Excellence
Consider a mortgage brokerage. Many executives in such organizations have loan officers operating in a strongly entrepreneurial capacity. The executives need to see certain numbers, the loan officers are doing their best to enable the right loans for the right people to hit those numbers, and to experience personal gain.
Already, someone working as a loan officer has reached a point where they’re trying to do their best. Now say an executive finds a loan officer is coming in “under par” regarding quota. An executive has a few options here: they can sit down on a one-on-one basis and try to motivate the employee by stoking the fires of consequence…or they can act in a leadership capacity as a sort of coach. The latter method will likely work better, sometimes the former is taken too often.
It’s not only loan officers that want to win the “game” of profitable operation. Incentives and bonuses among any team will help drive them toward their goals, as will effective coaching. If such workers aren’t hitting necessary numbers, it’s likely not deliberate. If an executive were to treat them like a malfunctioning machine, rather than a human, they shouldn’t be surprised if they see little to no improvement even while a quota lag persists. A machine is static and uncreative; a person is vibrant and imaginative. If your efforts are already emphasizing this aspect of individuality, excellent! If they aren’t, it may be worthwhile to optimize your approach.
Working with a team of coaches comes in handy in such situations. Employees are going to experience stress, and will likely feel their job has little purpose in the grand scheme of things. But treat them like people who are responsible, creative beings, and you give them inner strength to transcend boundaries, developing creativity to meet quotas.
You must exploit empathy, and this is a learning process. A coach may be “in your face”, push you harder, and motivate you in ways you didn’t think possible—but you understand why they’re doing so. It’s part of “the game”. Which game? Well, the game of selling, the game of outreach, the game of success.
Athletes love coaches because the coach-given passion which drives players is informed by desire. Good coaches transform desire into motivation. This has a balance. Sometimes a coach does get a bit confrontational and direct, because sometimes the only way to facilitate desire and motivation is through a swift, frank, indisputable address of reality.
In terms of a professional atmosphere, it’s going to differ per employee, and again, you can’t treat each employee as “one-size-fits-all” machine component. The key is facilitating desire as naturally as possible. Desire comes from within, and surfeits outward effort.
Effective Executive Coaching Maximizes Retention
An executive coaching their team can tell when a loan officer is under too much stress, or a seller needs to get re-motivated after a down month. Instead of berating these individuals, the good coach sits down with his team members, lets them speak, lets them be heard, lets them be recognized, and offers alternatives, advice, comfort, or reproof as necessary. The key is facilitating desire, which equals motivation. Proper action in such scenarios is situationally dependent.
Reduced stress, recognition, and humanity are better motivators than fear and might. The key is learning to coach—to lead—rather than to manage. Managers deal with numbers, coaches deal with people. Personability yields retention.
Learn to coach, learn to lead, and employees will stick around because they want to—because they desire to; because they recognize they’re a valued member of your team. If you haven’t looked into a coaching approach, you may want to consider it.
Women who are in leadership roles face many of the same challenges as men but tend to handle these challenges differently. They look for a coach who will listen to them and help them find the answers to the questions they have, both about themselves and about their position.