Mindfulness and Leadership: Three Easy Ways to Be a Better Leader

zen stone garden round stone and raked sand making line patterns In the world of coaching, we’ve long practiced and shared the concepts of mindfulness with clients because we’ve seen and felt the results. Mindfulness as it’s practiced as a part of leadership development can take many forms, from something as simple as NOT multitasking or as intentional as active listening, or regulating self-talk.

So, how does mindfulness make you a better leader? Let me give you an example.

I work with a client who is very intense. She’s heading quickly to the top of her organizational structure and is the heir apparent. She is super busy and rarely sleeps more than five hours a night. A few weeks ago she commented that she was having trouble focusing on so many things at once and has been reacting rather than carefully responding to situations around her. Her edge was slipping. She wanted a way to adjust, change, and retool her leadership capacity. So we explored mindfulness. Here are three things she reported she’s doing that are helping her feel like she’s back on track, and the really great outcome is that her people have noticed the difference.

1. Practice deep breathing. Before a big meeting, a difficult conversation, or a brainstorming session—any time you need to be fully in the moment—take three deep breaths. Dr. Herbert Benson, Fellow at The American Institute of Stress, cites the benefit as increased nitric oxide, positively affecting the parasympathetic nervous system and resulting in muscle relaxation and reduced heart rate. That means an increase in calmness and feelings of well-being.

2. Lessen distractions. Turn away from the computer, go for a walk or have a walking meeting, close your eyes (if you’re virtual). Reducing distractions and getting back to nature have a wide variety of benefits. A study done at Princeton Neuroscience Institute showed that a high rate of visual input reduces the brain’s ability to focus. Your brain actually suppresses activity at a certain point of stimulation. Even better, a study published in 2010 in the Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that spending just 20 minutes outside per day could boost energy levels.

3. Notice when your inner talk goes off topic. We all have an inner voice. Mine sounds like my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Hall, constantly pushing me to do more, get on with things, and stay busy, busy, busy. It’s not about getting rid of the inner chatter. It’s about noticing it and redirecting your thoughts. That’s it. Simply notice; don’t judge.

Good for You—and the People You Work With

Now my client reports that she’s more focused and intentional. She’s less frustrated and more satisfied. A great additional benefit: her people feel more engaged. One direct report said, “You are a role model for me. I always feel like you have time for me and it makes me want to do more.”

Have you explored the benefits of mindfulness yet? Stop now and take those three deep breaths. Go for a walk tonight, share a laugh, hug your dog, and savor that bit of chocolate. You get to choose how to be fully present. It can be as easy as adding a few simple practices to your life.

About the Author

Patricia Overland is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.


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