I have broken down the “Next Steps Toward Mindful Leadership” into 3 chapters:
1. SETTING THE STAGE FOR MEANINGFUL INTERACTIONS AND EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
Setting the stage for a meaningful interaction is critical. Here are some examples:
- If you’re in your office and someone comes in to talk with you, I suggest getting up from your desk and walking around to greet them. This does several things: it truly acknowledges the person, it takes you away from your screen and it removes the barrier of your desk and screen/s from between you. It levels the playing field and creates a sense of your immediate attentiveness.
- Similarly, if you get a phone call it helps to distance yourself from your screen or other distractions. If you’re on a cell call it’s easy to get up and take the call away from your desk, if it’s a landline you can still stand up and disconnect from whatever you were doing before the call.
There’s another benefit when you take these conscious actions to focus your attention. You’re getting up and moving. As standing desks get more and more popular, the benefits of standing and shifting your posture is being highlighted. Getting up regularly gets your blood flowing and can help to clear your head.
- Another example of setting the stage is in group meetings. Often times we bring our laptops, or tablets, to meetings to take notes. And we have our cell phones face up in front of us. All too often an email pops up, or we’re reminded of something we needed to do, and we get distracted from the meeting in which we’re supposed to participating. If you want to optimize the meeting potential I would recommend setting a standard to not bring a device and to turn your cell phone face down.
If you need to take notes, try using a digital pen. Several pens and digital pads are available and allow you to take notes and the relevant app translates your notes. LiveScribe was one of the early examples and Moleskine also has a digital pen and some nice notepads. This innovation is really mobile, allows you to take notes without distractions, but also allows you to search those notes at a later time through an app, removing a need for a computer.
- Many meetings happen virtually these days and one thing I like about videoconferencing calls is you can see the participants. When I took an executive position with a large national company, I inherited a tradition of a large videoconferencing call with a group of General Managers. Conceptually, this was a wonderful opportunity for these managers to connect in spite of geographic distances between them. However, it was the norm for some participants to turn off their camera. Others weren’t quite so courteous, leaving their camera on while they they kept banging away at emails and stepping away from their desk to do something in the middle of the meeting! This was a practice I discouraged from the outset. If the meeting was at all valuable, people needed to be present, and not routinely distracted.
There’s a great book by Cameron Herold, called “Meetings Suck: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business into One of the Most Valuable.” As Cameron elucidates in his book, most managers have never been trained or coached on how to run an awesome meeting. He details actionable steps to make meetings more effective, and he also provides a set of metrics for what a successful meeting should look like. Partly we need to reevaluate how we perceive meetings, particularly keeping focus on what they’re meant to accomplish.
In the scenario where I had distracted managers on a video conference call, I asked them what they thought the most valuable elements of the meetings were, and what parts they didn’t like. Funnily enough, the participants raised the elements that concerned me most. They pointed out that they felt it was rude when people turned off their camera or didn’t focus their attention on the speaker. They also felt a lot of what was being discussed was not relevant to the group, as a whole. We went about tuning up and tightening the agenda and cut the meeting time by over half. With the managers asked to be present and engaged, with an assurance of keeping the meeting short and on point, these weekly videoconference calls became invaluable.
Visit the other 2 chapters of “Next Steps Toward Mindful Leadership”:
1. Setting the Stage for Meaningful Interactions and Effective Communication
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