Baby Zen: The Importance of Mindful Presence in Leadership

Because she’s still out of focus, my focal strength has to double.

I’m talking about my 2-year-old daughter. The combination or her words, babble strings, signs and face/body language.

Language is visual that way and so critically important that we pay attention to the moment at hand with whomever is at the end of that hand.

So yes, she’s still out of focus. Not for much longer, though. And then, look out we’re told.

But even when she does come into focus, my focal strength will need to be all about her. Just as it’ll need to be all about my second daughter recently born, my wife, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my clients —

On and on. I’m talking about mindful presence; the ability to be in the moment with whomever you’re with for whatever reason and focus on only that. Call it what you want, but I call it Baby Zen, which is why my Twitter background is what it is.

That’s really tough today. The pressure to integrate work and life and be on at every moment is greater than it’s every been in the modern industrialized world, especially for leaders of any shape, size or stage.

I won’t be the first or last person to recommend some of the follow tips for mindful presence, and I certainly need to remind myself with regularity.

Sound leaders of self and of others need to work on it all the time.

I am here with you, not over there with them.

Beware the social media fallacy. You’ve heard of the gambler’s fallacy? Well, social media has become that way as well (which is another post all to itself). The more time you spend on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and/or other personal/professional networks doesn’t mean magic will happen and you’ll score a big win, whatever that means. I’m a big believer in social media’s positive networking, educating and marketing powers, but it can also rip your attention span right away. Limit the time you spend and invest it wisely.

Multitasking is a myth. Trust me, it is. Not even computers can do it. The reality is we (and computers) switch from one task to another. The more switching you do in limited space and time, the less productive you are at anything. And because we’re interrupted almost every 11 minutes, how the heck can we get anything done? Limit your interruptions and switch tasking.

Keep your meetings to a minimum. And that includes length as well. Don’t have meetings for just meetings sake. Prep beforehand and give everyone an agenda. Then stick to it. Unless absolutely necessary, keep them to 30-60 minutes max.

No laptops or smart phones, please. Make it mandatory that they are closed and put away during meetings, even one-on-one’s (see below). Not even for taking notes. Make folks take notes in long hand. I know there’s research out there somewhere that shows writing out what you’re hearing makes for better retention. Oh, and see “Beware the social media fallacy” above.

Have one-on-one’s with your staff. Schedule them and also have them informally when needed. This is a great way to give each of them your undivided attention, regular performance reviews, reciprocal feedback on your performance as a manager, empathizing on personal issues and advising counsel if necessary, identifying potential workplace issues that need addressing, and much more.

Close your door, don’t answer your phone and don’t check e-mail. Open-door policies are great, but if you’ve got to hunker down to meet a deadline, then close your door and make it clear to your staff (and yes, even family) that you can’t be interrupted for XX amount of time. And for goodness sake, let your phone go to voice mail and turn off your e-mail. Oh, and see “Beware the social media fallacy” above.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Sure, all the kids say it, but this is really important. Whether you’re having a one-on-one, a team meeting, speaking to your entire company, meeting with prospects or clients, meeting with family members — take as much time as you can prior to “check yourself” and Baby Zen with what you’re about to do and who you’re doing it with. Sometimes if your schedule is hectic and you’ve got only a few minutes in between, well, then that’s all you have. Check yourself and get your head and heart straight.

Take care of yourself. Eat right, hydrate, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Heck, even power napping during the day is okay to refresh the Baby Zen.

Now it’s time to get to work.

Be better and brighter.


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