Improve Your Leadership With the Mindfulness Edge

Get the Mindfulness Edge

Most of us have heard of mindfulness. These days it is all the rage in certain circles. My friend Matt Tenney is one who practices it in a way that inspires. It’s not just how he does it but also where he first learned it: in a prison cell. That’s right, my friend Matt was once behind bars where he changed his entire outlook and changed the course of his life. In fact, that dark time in his life seems to have been the best time because many people have learned from his mistakes and from what he learned through the ordeal.

 

“Every moment of our lives can be infused with the deepest meaning possible.” –Matt Tenney

 

Today, Matt Tenney works to develop highly effective leaders who achieve extraordinary long-term business outcomes—and live more fulfilling lives—as a result of realizing high levels of self-mastery. He is a social entrepreneur, an author, a keynote speaker, and a corporate trainer. Matt’s clients include Wells Fargo, Marriott, Keller Williams, Four Seasons, and many other companies, associations, and universities.

His first book, Serve to Be Great, is one I highly recommend. Now, his latest is all about mindfulness and how it can rewire your brain for success. It is a fascinating read, full of research to back up the many claims of the practice. I recently asked Matt about his latest book, The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule.

 

Train Your Mind for Optimal Performance

What are the key ways mindfulness can help us improve professionally and personally?

Everyone seems to agree that all successes and all failures begin in the mind. Yet very few of us take time to train the mind to function better. Most of us add knowledge through study, which can be very helpful. However, we know that a person can be very “book smart” but still have great difficulty making good decisions and/or developing and sustaining healthy relationships with other people.

Matt TenneyIt is clear that just as important as what we know is the type of mind we show up with every day. Mindfulness training provides a way to systematically develop a healthier, more effective mind, and there’s now a large body of research suggesting that mindfulness training changes the physical structure of our brains in ways that help us perform better both professionally and personally.

Perhaps most important for business, mindfulness training changes the brain in ways that enhance self-awareness and mental agility, which may be the two most important leadership skills there are. These skills reduce the degree to which we’re influenced by the biases we all have. This freedom from bias can dramatically improve our business acumen and our impact on the bottom line.

Also, self-awareness is the foundation of emotional and social intelligence, which are essential for creating and sustaining high-performance team cultures. All other things being equal, over the long term, a team with a more positive emotional climate is going to significantly outperform a team with a negative emotional climate. Mindfulness training improves our impact on the emotional climate of our teams.

Mindfulness training can also have a dramatic impact on our personal lives. The practice helps free us from unpleasant emotions like anxiety, fear, and anger and helps develop a special type of happiness that does not depend on what happens to us or what we have. We can train to develop unconditional happiness.

 

Mindfulness training results in highly refined levels of self-awareness.

 

The Biggest Mindfulness Misconception

Many people read about mindfulness and have a variety of perceptions about it. What is the biggest misconception people have about the practice?

The biggest misconception I see is that people conflate being mindful and techniques for developing mindfulness. People think engaging in mindfulness practice means we have to add to our schedules unfamiliar techniques like sitting still and watching our breath go in and out. Sitting still and watching our breath is not necessarily mindfulness practice. It is one technique, of many, that can facilitate the development of mindfulness.

To begin practicing mindfulness, you don’t need to add anything to your schedule. You just need to make and sustain a subtle inner shift during the activities you already engage in every day.

 

Study: Mindfulness training results in physical changes to the structure of the brain.

 

What’s your definition of mindfulness?

12 Ideas to Boost Your Happiness

 

Want to be happier?  Try these 12 steps and move in the right direction.

 

Complimenting

 

Look for opportunities to compliment others today everywhere you go.  Be genuine and sincere.  No sarcasm.  Write a thank you note.

“Thank you for checking me out so quickly.”

“I appreciate your attention to detail.”

“Your children are very well behaved.”

 

Helping

 

Studies show that nothing raises happiness more than helping others in need.  If you can volunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter, or nursing home, you will be happier.  Almost any act of helping others in need will boost your happiness.  And it’s not just volunteer activities.  Try holding open a door for someone; shoveling a neighbor’s walk; letting someone pull in front of you in traffic.  Put others before yourself.

 

Listening

 

Slow down and listen.  Really listen and connect.  There’s something magical when you understand someone’s views.

 

Loving

 

Find someone to express your love and gratitude.  Happiness always goes up in the presence of those we love.

 

Starting

 

Start something new and exciting.  When your brain is learning and your body is moving, you will be engaged and create good feelings.

 

Exercising

 

Countless studies show the benefits of exercise.  It can get you out of a rut and boost chemicals in your brain to make you happier.

 

Accomplishing

 

The opposite of starting is accomplishing.  When you are crossing off important “to do” items, it will increase your satisfaction.

10 Ways to Reduce Stress

This is a guest post by Charu Chandra, an aspiring leader, entrepreneur, and blogger. Charu blogs about the beneficial effects of yoga and strength training and other things fitness-related at strongyogi.com.

 

A good leader is expected to always remain in control of his emotions.

But like it or not, things don’t always go according to plan, and leaders, even good ones, are prone to emotional outbursts. And if stress is not recognized and corrected early, it usually snowballs into bigger problems.

So, it is imperative that a leader remains calm at all times. As you may have experienced, situations only tend to get worse when approached with stress.

10 ways to reduce stress in your life

1) Tidy up your workspace/room.

A cluttered room or workspace is a great way to build up stress. I have noticed that removing all unnecessary items from my desk (all I have on my desk is my laptop and a glass of water), making my bed every morning, etc. keeps my mind really calm.

2) Tidy up your inbox/computer/desktop.

Since we spend a lot of time on our computers and smart phones, keeping them clutter-free is as important as keeping our physical workspace clean. For example, until recently, I had close to 7,000 unread e-mails in my inbox.  So I sat down for three hours and cleaned up the entire thing. Once I was done, I felt incredibly relaxed and peaceful.  So make sure you don’t let things get out of hand in the virtual world.

3) Speak your mind.

One of the sources of stress in my life was my roommate. He used to go to bed late and would always play video games loudly late at night when I was asleep. So, the second or third time I was disturbed, I got up from bed and talked to him about this. This helped a lot as I let go of the anger in me and also because the noise stopped. So, if something needs to be said, say it.

4) Pinpoint the source of your stress.

Stress is not always general. Sometimes, specific events or people can stress you out. For example, a job interview scheduled for tomorrow may be causing you stress today. In my experience, the best way to deal with such situations is to do everything you can to address it and leave the rest to god/fate/luck.

5) Give up control.

Trying to control situations too much can cause stress. Don’t misunderstand me, leaders should always be in control of a situation but shouldn’t expect to be in control of its outcome. A good leader adapts to whatever turn a situation takes and is always ready for anything. Using the interview example from above, I do my best to prepare for it and then relax. Because I know that there will always be unexpected events no matter how well I prepare.

6) Take a break.

If you’ve been working hard on something, taking a short break to get away from it all is always a good idea. Taking a walk, playing with an animal or a baby, watching television, listening to calming music, taking a nap and exercising are all great ways to de-stress. Find out what helps you relax.

Everything Connects: An Interview with Faisal Hoque

 

My friend Faisal Hoque is a serial entrepreneur, author, and thought leader.  His life is a modern story of success, failures, and resiliency – leaving Bangladesh at 17 for the United States where he has since founded businesses including SHADOKA and others.  You may know his writing from Fast CompanyHuffington Post, Forbes, or BusinessWeek.

I previously talked with him about The Power of Convergence.  His latest book, written with Drake Baer, Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability. Like all of his writing, it is packed with ideas.

Everything Connects

Faisal, it’s so good to talk with you again.  Let’s start with your definition of “connectivity.”  What is it?  Why is it so important? If it is that important, how do we cultivate it?

 

There is no substitute for inspiration, curiosity, and passion. -Faisal Hoque

 

Being holistic and humanistic is key to a great life and doing great work.

faisal.hoque300dpi2013Connectivity is a sense of journey to the sense of purpose — it is an individual, lonely pursuit and a collective, companionable one at the same time.

Our individual, interpersonal, and organizational working lives all interconnect. By examining these connections, we learn new ways to create, innovate, adapt, and lead.

We need to address our own mental experiences, our social interactions, and the mindset we can take to orient ourselves to this holistic, long-term view.

We need to explore understanding that leads to long-term sustainability, the way to act in a manner that promotes mutual flourishing, and how, crucially, a leader can urge us along this process.

We need to arrange our lives and our organizations in a way that leads to long-term value creation: surveying the subtle and not-so-subtle arts of idea generation, decision-making, and creating continuous value.

The newest problems of the world find solutions in the oldest timeless practices like mindfulness, authenticity, and perseverance—because Everything Connects.

Understanding Unique Motivations

“Somewhere along the way, people become convinced that stasis is safer than movement. Consistency feels comfortable; volatility is frightening.”  As a leader, how do you motivate people out of the comfortable?

I think first, we have to appreciate the interior complexity of the people that we work with. Then, we need to make the links between a person’s individual motivations and what our organizations need. In other words, link the individual–personal goals like career trajectories–to the collective group goals like innovation, revenue growth, and impacting the world.

Leaders need to connect with the emotional intelligence of their people and curate their talent to change, adapt, move forward.  There is no substitute for inspiration, curiosity, and passion. -Faisal Hoque

To do this we need to understand what people need from their work in order to do their best work–and how leaders can help arrange that for them. This distinction is rooted in intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. If people are intrinsically motivated, there is something inside of them that pushes them to their work; if they are extrinsically motivated, something outside of them brings them there.  They embrace the unknown, volatility.  Leaders need to connect with the emotional intelligence of their people and curate their talent to change, adapt, move forward.  There is no substitute for inspiration, curiosity, and passion.

The Benefits of Meditation

You place a lot of value on meditation, calling it the “batting cage for getting familiar with the fastballs and curveballs of our conscious and unconscious habits.”  Off the top of your head, what are the top three benefits of meditating?

5 Ways to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

If there was a drug with no negative side effects that helped you eat healthier, exercise more, experience less depression, and sleep better, how long would it last in the pharmacy?  We would flock to doctors for prescriptions.  The pharmaceutical company would have a hit.

It may not be a drug, but gratitude may be as important to your health as nutrition.   Let’s look at some of the benefits.  People described as thankful tend to:

  •             Eat healthier
  •             Develop stronger immune systems
  •             Experience more energy
  •             Demonstrate optimism and mental acuity
  •             Cope with stress better
  •             Describe life with high satisfaction
  •             Exercise regularly
  •             Solve difficult mental challenges easier
  •             Have deeper friendships
  •             Sleep better
  •             Have increased self-worth and self-esteem
  •             Show increased productivity
  •             Enjoy work and perform better on the job

There’s no happier person than a truly thankful, content person. -Joyce Meyer

Successful people practice gratitude.  After all, I don’t see how you can be called successful if you aren’t happy and thankful for all life has to offer.

Here are five ways to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude”:

1.  Write it down.

Keep a gratitude journal.  Try it for 30 days.  Be specific about what you are thankful for.  Watch how your thoughts develop over time.  You may start out simply, but when you add stories and color, it becomes more powerful.

When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others. -Dalai Lama

2.  Talk about it.

Sharing what you are thankful for isn’t just for Thanksgiving.  Make it a habit to talk about what you are grateful for all year long.  It will reinforce your feelings.