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Listening as a Radical Act

               

Active listening is something that everyone struggles with and most executives include as part of their leadership coaching plan.

In the age of iPhones, email, texts, constant notifications, and Twitter “shouting contests,” truly listening can be a tremendous a gift, both for the speaker and listener.

I think listening starts with desire to be a better listener and also includes an ability to turn down our internal chatter so we are able to be present, engaged, and focused on what the other person is trying to communicate. Not a simple task.

Yoga, meditation, journaling, and exercise are excellent ways to settle and calm our minds, show up more present, and ultimately listen better.

Tools to Become a Better Listener

  • Click here to hear Jon Kabat-Zinn talk about Listening as a Radical Act of Love (six minutes). JKZ, a PhD in molecular biologist from MIT, is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher who is known for bringing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) into the mainstream of medicine and society.
     
  • Click here to watch a short clip by Simon Sinek on Why Effective Leaders Speak Last, especially in the boardroom (< two minutes)
     
  • Click here to read A Simple and Powerful Technique for Better Listening

Consider The Generosity Of The One-Year-Old

Consider The Generosity Of The One-Year-Old

who has no words to exchange with you yet
and instead offers up her favorite drooled-on blanket,
her green rhinoceros as big as she is,
her cloth doll with the long blond pigtails,
her battered cardboard books, swung open on their soggy pages.

If you were outdoors she would hand you a dead beetle,
a fistful of grass, a pebble,
by way of introduction or just because.
And if, a moment later, she wanted it back,
it would be for the joy of the game
that makes of every simple object an offering:
This is me. Here is who I am.

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The Benefits of Meditation

SIGN UP FOR THE JUNE 21ST 28 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE!

Participants from previous meditation challenges shared receiving the following immediate benefits from meditating eight minutes per day over a 28 day period: 

  • General Health and Well Being 
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Kinder Nature to Self and Others
  • Positive Change in Mindset
  • Enhanced Productivity

More details below....

General Health and Well Being:

  • Better Sleep
  • Time of Refuge
  • Less Loneliness
  • Provides more daily healing and comfort

Emotional Regulation – managing stress and changing the nervous system:

  • Better able to deal with situations where others might push my buttons – I am able to step away and respond more constructively
  • I am able to remain more focused and calm during difficult situations

Kinder Nature – self and others – leads to better relationships:

  • More patient and thoughtful
  • More accepting of self and others
  • Kinder to myself and others

Change in Mindset:

  • Allows my brain to relax
  • In terms of managing disappointment, I’m able to acknowledge pain, accept the situation, let go of what I can’t control, and feel more grateful (versus blocking things out and numbing myself).
  • Provides perspective and philosophy
  • Pay more attention to beauty around me – like noticing a beautiful sunset

Enhanced Productivity – more effective life:

  • Improved memory
  • Focused on a singular task versus multi-tasking
  • Fresh perspective: bring a beginner’s mind approach to my work
  • Able to handle life’s daily pressures better
  • More accepting of unexpected situations that are given to me

SIGN UP FOR THE MEDITATION CHALLENGE TODAY!

The 28 Day Meditation Challenge*

Strengthen Your Existing Practice or Learn How to Meditate!

Starts June 21st

CLICK HERE to learn more and sign up!

Includes: mindfulness welcome kit, daily email with inspiring quotes, videos, and meditations, and a Google tracking sheet for accountability and community.

Be part of a virtual community: can be done from anywhere in the world!

Build up to 8 minutes per day, enough to create short term changes to your brain!

Entire $28 fee goes to Sheltered Yoga, a wonderful nonprofit whose mission is to improve emotional health and wellbeing of underserved communities.

SIGN UP FOR THE MEDITATION CHALLENGE TODAY!

7 Practices of a Mindful Leader

 

Recently I listened to Marc Lesser, The Zen Priest with an MBA, speak with Dan Harris on 10% Happier podcast episode #184 (click to listen). I enjoyed the podcast so much, I bought Lesser’s book, The Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader that evolved out of his work helping create Search Inside Yourself Leadership, a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence program at Google.

And this is why – Marc Lesser speaks about the tension between being and doing; his love of work; the importance of cultivating compassion, clarity, self–awareness, and a deeper connection to others – and how a mindfulness practice can decrease anxiety and increases one’s ability to lead with the ever–increasing complexity and demands that all leaders face both at work and at home.

The Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader by Marc Lesser

1. Love the work. Start with inspiration, with what is most essential. Acknowledge and cultivate aspiration – your deepest, most heartfelt intentions.

2. Do the work. Have a regular meditation and mindfulness practice. Learn to respond appropriately at work and in all parts of your life. Lesser recommends meditation, walking meditation, and journal writing – emphasizing the importance of spending some amount of time just sitting, without any of the activity or stimulation of exercise.

Read more >

Train Your Brain!

 

                        Every man can, if he so desires,
                        becomes the sculptor of his own brain.

                               – Santiago Ramon Y Cajal

I highly recommend reading Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Much Meditation Changes your Mind, Brain, and Body written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, both leading PhD scientists and New York Times–best selling authors.

In their book they share how meditation not only leads to pleasant mind states but also to altered traits, that is personality traits that remain and endure after meditation sessions have ended. And that with just two weeks of 8 minutes of daily meditation, participants can start experiencing short term changes to their brains, including less reaction to stress, better focus, less mind wandering, improved memory, more compassion, and less bodily inflammation.

On a more personal note, clients have shared receiving the following benefits from a meditation practice:

  • A self-awareness and awareness of the environment around them
  • A calmer, more grounded presence
  • Improved ability to regulate emotions, navigate difficult situations, and manage conflict
  • Gains in creativity and innovative thinking
  • Deeper active listening skills (being more present and patient)
  • More compassion towards others and less critical of one’s self
  • Improved concentration, engagement, and focus
  • Enhanced perspective (the ability to see different sides and points of view)
  • Stronger, richer, and more fulfilling relationships

More about Meditation .....

Meditation The practice of setting aside quiet time to calm our mind and relax our whole body by focusing on our breath, other body sensations, sound, sight, or mantra. Meditation is training for the mind; it involves an internal effort to self–regulate the mind; turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment.

Alexis Santos, meditation teacher and mindfulness expert, shares that meditators have three jobs:

  • Relate to Experience Skillfully To be in wise relationship with what is by not taking things so personally. Thoughts, emotions, and feelings come and go based on certain causes and conditions, so we can see things as being part of nature.
     
  • Develop Awareness Is the mind aware of thoughts, emotions, and sensations? Welcoming and accepting the present moment versus resisting.

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The Interrupter: Take the One–Minute Pause!

                    Between stimulus and response there is a space.
                    In that space is our power to choose our response.
                    In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

                                                                         – Victor Frankl

A leader recently shared with me the value of taking a one–minute pause before he spoke at board meetings so he could be more present, take a few deep calming breaths, create some space for himself, and respond in a more thoughtful, deliberate way. A Wharton student shared with me that she used the technique of taking a pause, focusing on her breath, and getting grounded in her body by feeling her fingertips to help her feel more calm during emotionally charged conversations.

Tara Brach, meditation psychologist and meditation teacher, speaks about how most things are really out of our control – even our thoughts, body sensations, and emotions – but because our mind is trainable, we can take control of how we respond to certain situations. She mentioned something called “the interrupter,” a mindful moment where we take a pause and respond to the situation at hand in an intentional way versus being stuck in autopilot or acting out based on our old patterns.

Tips around the one–minute interrupter!

  • Take a few deep breaths, with more focus on the exhale. This will help stop your fight/flight response, activate your parasympathetic (the rest and digest) system, regulate your emotions, and cultivate a sense of calm and well-being.

Read more >

Zingerman’s Ari Weinzweig

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, four years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 12 businesses with 700+ employees and $65+ million in annual revenue. And in 2019, Zingerman's Roadhouse was named a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award.

Our family met Ari last summer on a visit to Michigan while dining at Zingerman's Roadhouse (he was the water boy, refilling our glasses!). Since then I have gotten to know Ari and continue to be inspired by his community values, artistic creative expression, prolific writings, and business success.

Ari has authored several excellent books, including recently released pamphlet, The Art of Business, in which he emphasizes that we all have the capacity to approach our lives, jobs, and businesses as artists. 

As an executive coach, I especially appreciate Ari’s philosophy of how showing up as an artist links to mindful leadership and emotional intelligence. He believes that having an artist's mindset is about being more conscious of what you think, how you view the world, what you say and do, and how you relate to others. Doing so means ultimately leading a life of your own design (versus one that was chosen for you), believing in what you do, being true to yourself and your organization, and creating more meaningful business offerings. To learn how to live as an artist, read on!

The Art of Business – Why I Want to Be an Artist by Ari Weinzweig

Here’s an idea. Next time someone asks what you do for a living, try telling them you’re an artist. Watch their response. My forecast? They will pay far more attention when you start to share more about your life. So, I’m pretty sure, will you.

Don’t worry. I’m not trying to get you to tell tall tales. I believe it—even if you’re not an artist by trade today, I have full faith that you might already live an artistically inspired life. If you don’t now, I’m confident that you are more than capable. Accountants, actuaries, and astrophysicists—regardless of profession, we all have the ability to live our lives as if we were artists. And when we choose to live our lives creatively, to make the most of the days and months and years we have on the planet, to be true to ourselves as best we can and as often as possible, then our lives—and our organizations—are truly art as well. Most of us, I know, haven’t conceived of ourselves as artists. But I’m guessing that if we start imagining ourselves in this new light, our lives will likely become richer and more rewarding. Excellent, if imperfect, works of art in the making.

Read more >

How to Deal with Difficult People!

Many of my clients sign up for coaching in order to develop their executive presence – that is the ability to show up confident, calm, and present – especially when dealing with difficult individuals. A recent client shared that one of his peers was making rude comments about my client in front of others. As a result, my client felt himself getting triggered when he came into contact with his peer. My client was concerned because he had to work regularly with this peer and intuitively understood that his colleague’s behavior was not going to change.

As you (unfortunately!) know, difficult colleagues – as well as people in our personal lives – come in many shapes, sizes and flavors, including being overly critical, bossy, unaware of how their behavior impacts others, and even – on the more extreme side – self-centered, mean–spirited, and manipulative.

Since difficult people are not always interested in or capable of insight, most likely they are not going to change. Therefore, it’s really up to you to change how you show up, so that you can remain confident and grounded and protect yourself from their negative energy.

While I don’t believe there is a one size fits all approach for dealing with difficult individuals, you can experiment with different self-management strategies to better manage difficult individuals and situations and build your inner resources.

I would say the overall goal when dealing with difficult individuals is to learn how to expand your window of tolerance for dealing with discomfort (an important life skill!), train in the skill of compassion – toward yourself and others, and ultimately feel happier and more resilient.

Here are a few different self-management strategies clients have successfully used when engaging with difficult individuals – hope you find them useful!

Set a Goal for the Interaction. Your objective is to remain present, calm and grounded and find some peace and ease during a difficult moment. For example, when I start to feel triggered, I will get grounded in my body, feel my feet on the floor, and start to focus on my breath. See Get Present and Grounded below for more information on how to use your body and breath to remain present, calm, and grounded.

Prepare. Take time and space to prepare for a difficult interaction. It’s helpful to prepare by writing out your goal and process, meditating, and/or taking a walk. Click here  to download a worksheet clients often find useful when preparing for a difficult situation.

Read more >

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