At the start of a new year, leaders everywhere are trying to figure out how to become, well, better leaders. Of course, there's always room for improvement, but the reset of the new year is a good time to really sit down and think about what exactly it is you want to improve.
At the end of 2018, I started practicing mindfulness, through meditation and breathing execises. If you don't know, mindfulness is essentially being present in any given moment, and being aware of what is happening around us. To some, this may sound easy. But for entrepreneurs, who have made their careers out of thinking ahead, reflecting on the past and preparing for the future, this can be difficult.
While it might feel silly to step away from your desk to meditate or breathe, it's totally normal and healthy. Most importantly, it will help you be a better leader. Here are three benefits to mindfulness that can help you in the workplace.
When you practice mindfulness, you are essentially clearing all of the background (and foreground) noise from your head when assessing a situation and making a decision. Doing this allows you to prioritize whatever is most important in order to solve the problem at hand in a timely manner.
As leaders, we are often tasked with balancing (and meeting) the needs of multiple stakeholders, from customers to employees to investors. The ability to prioritize means you will be able to determine whose needs absolutely need to be met in a certain situation, and who can be put on the back burner for the time being.
Being mindful means never having to say you're sorry. No, but seriously; mindfulness is perhaps the most valuable tool in your communication arsenal. When you're mindful of the situation at hand and what's going around you, you can communicate clearly and effectively. Rather than letting past grievances or judgments influence your communication, you can talk to your employees and colleagues from a place of compassion and understanding.
This is particularly useful during times of conflict. Prior to practicing mindfulness, conflicts between co-workers would stress me out. Since I've started meditating, I've found it much easier to de-escalate situations by putting myself in other people's shoes, and remembering that no one actually likes conflict, and therefore I'm not the only person being affected.
I'm not afraid to admit it: I can get emotional. I don't necessarily mean crying or shouting; what I mean is allowing my emotions to motivate my decisions. Maybe I feel sentimental about an employee who needs to be let go; maybe I feel prideful and don't want to admit that a certain way of doing things isn't working. Whatever the case may be, emotions can sometimes get in the way of my decision-making.
Practicing mindfulness helps you minimize the power of your emotions. Of course, they're still there--I don't know that I'll ever reach a place where I don't feel emotions about my work (or that I Want to). Emotions aren't bad; they indicate passion. But given free reign, they can distract you from things you want (or need) to do. Practicing mindfulness keeps your emotions in check, so that you can focus on what's right in front of you.