Many of us as leaders are so caught up managing day-to-day responsibilities that we fail to notice how much of the time we are on autopilot. Janice Marturano, CEO of the Institute for Mindful Leadership shares research stating that when leaders allow their schedules to dictate their attention they rarely make the kind of conscious decisions that embody compassion, humor, or integrity – powerful values that connect humans and enable us to function at our highest level on teams.
The reality is, without time to reflect and plan, we simply do not make the space to answer important questions. The field of Appreciative Inquiry’s sheds light on the importance and power of asking the right questions in its “Simultaneity Principle.” This principle states that questions are never neutral, they are fateful, and social systems (people) move in the direction of the questions they most persistently and passionately discuss. In essence, we start growing when we start asking the right questions.
What must I stop doing in order to focus on what’s most important?” is a seldom-asked question production focused culture. “What if, as leaders with the best intentions to follow through on responsibilities and get results, we have allowed our schedules to dictate our priorities, decisions, and actions?
So what is the antidote to leadership on autopilot? How do we stop drifting into a state of mind where we are continuously distracted?
Here are three simple, yet provocative propositions:
- Stop “eating at the buffet line!” The old adage is that “you have too much on your plate” because responsibilities and roles have continued to pile up month after month and year after year without removing anything. Ask the question, “What must I stop doing?” and then choose to stop doing it! Commit to this for at least one month before determining if the universe becomes unhinged or not.
- Build “mindfulness moments” into your day. Engage in deep breathing, hit the pause button away from all your devices, and stop to notice how you are feeling and what is happening around you. To quote John Lennon, “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”
- Engage with someone or something that re-connects you with joy, passion, laughter, gratitude, love, meaning, fun and purpose. This can be as simple as texting a loved one, gazing at pictures of children or grandchildren, playing a prank on or sharing a joke with a coworker. It can also be mindfully adding something to your schedule like breakfast with a best friend, a vacation with loved ones or an overnight retreat for yourself.
As leaders we will always be presented with opportunities to be busy. The challenge is, can we remain mindful in the midst of the busyness? For without mindfulness, effective leadership becomes blurred by a state of constant distraction.