Helping leaders emerge

Blog - 2014

What If ...

"What if we gave up being attached to a certain outcome and just let it be - not worrying about how things might or might not turn out – even accepting that there might not be a resolution – and lived in the open space of today, this moment, right now with lightness and joy?"      - Cathy Q. Bailey

How to Forget the Experts and Listen to Your Own Voice

"A Mindful Leadership Story by Sonya Legg, Ph.D."

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony." – Thomas Merton

When I started my freshman year at Oxford University, I was excited to major in physics and participate in many different extra-curricular activities. However, I quickly learned that others, including my physics professor, had different ideas about how I should be spending my time. At the start of the year, my professor asked me what I did with my free time and I replied that I enjoyed may activities like rowing, running, and singing in the choir. Little did I know that we had different ideas around the importance of balance and enrichment beyond academics.

Shortly after that conversation, I attended a meeting with my professor and the dean and realized that naively, I had over shared. The professor talked with the dean as if I weren’t in the room, saying something like, “Sonya has a real attitude problem and needs to focus on her work. If she wants to succeed she is going to have to devote herself to physics, and only physics.” He then turned to me and said, “So Sonya, what do you have to say for yourself?”  Feeling betrayed and caught off guard, I was unable to answer his question.

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How to Be Thankful on Thanksgiving & Not Just About Turkey

"A Mindful Leadership Story by Cathy Quartner Bailey"

Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what
you don't have, you will never, ever have enough
.                             -  Oprah Winfrey


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays - we have the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on what we’re grateful for and share the day with family and friends. I wrote this story when my father was alive - it continues to stay with me - and I'd like to share it this Thanksgiving in his memory....

Thanksgiving 2007

This year is especially meaningful for my family as my father and mother drive to New Jersey to share Thanksgiving with us. We are grateful that my dad is with us, because as he often says, “I'm damn lucky to be here ....almost bought the store, and not just once!”

Thankfully my father’s situation has improved and he is on the road to better health as he recovers from aspiration pneumonia and the complications of his illness. Now I watch this man I love find the courage to deal with life on new terms, one where he wears a “trach,” uses a feeding tube, and is dependent on oxygen – maybe for the long term, hopefully for the short. He shows gratitude for each new day: a walk around the neighborhood, a good night’s sleep, a visit from a friend, or the occasional sip of ice cold water he sneaks when he thinks no one is watching.

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The Right Thing at the Wrong Time is the Wrong Thing

"A Mindful Leadership Story by Joan Spindel"

"I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything…at least not at the same time. So think in terms of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything." - Dan Millman.

In my twenties, finding a job to pay the rent, learn, expand my social network and travel the world were my only objectives. Timing in life is everything and thankfully it was the 1980’s during the technology boom, and while I had no real work experience, hard workers were needed, and I successfully talked my way into and landed my first job.

In my thirties, I transitioned out of my individual contributor role and started leading and managing teams. I was often the only woman leading a meeting or presenting at a conference; no female role models nor mentors existed for me, but despite that, I did okay. I never really thought about “leaning in or leaning out.” There were no fancy formulas – I worked hard, learned new skills, and delivered results. So, while it wasn’t part of any grand plan, I ended up working for organizations like EMC, Lotus and IBM - early pioneers and innovators in the world of technology. In time, I became Chief Marketing Office for a sexy technology start-up. Life was good.

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I Can Accept Failure, Everyone Fails at Something. But I Can’t Accept Not Trying – Michael Jordan

"A Mindful Leadership Story by Christopher Stevenson"

During my junior year of college, I became enamored with the sport of rowing and decided to give it a try. I signed up for the rowing club, attended practices, and set an ambitious goal of earning a seat on the "first boat” –  that is the top tier rowers on the team - particularly challenging given I was competing against others who had been rowing since freshman year or earlier.

I started training and continued to fall in love with the sport of rowing. Not only did my body become strong and lean, but I enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow rowers and the beautiful sunsets along the river. However, I was not yet aware of the true gift rowing would teach me.

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How to Be More Mindful: Take the Five Minutes

In a recent coaching session, I shared with a client the concept of taking a few minutes to reflect about how he wanted to show up for an important meeting, that is how to be more mindful and grounded so the other person in the room walked away with the right impression. A simple idea my client had overlooked and was excited to try. I encouraged him to take a few minutes and write down exactly how he wanted to show up at his meeting. That is - what kind of impression did he want to make at the meeting? He even agreed to take a few dry runs by having his wife videotape a practice session (the beauty of iPhones and iPads!).

After an important but stressful meeting, another client, who was being bullied by her boss, called to tell me her meeting went well for the first 45 minutes, but instead of taking a quick coffee break to step back and remind herself of her goals to be grounded and non-reactive, she kept on going and as a result did not maintain her goals for the second half of the meeting. Lesson learned: take the 5 minute coffee break!

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Critical Conversations: How to Show Up When the Other Person Plays Win Lose

"I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to." - Unknown

I recently coached an individual who was struggling with how he should show up when communicating with a difficult colleague. He explained to me that whenever there was a disagreement, his peer would start lashing out and ultimately play "win-lose" - that is say anything to make him appear like the righteous one and my client the bad guy. My client would leave the interaction feeling triggered and it would take time to cool off and get grounded.

While it's not always this extreme, many of my clients struggle with difficult situations and people. So what can we do? How do we show up when someone does not want to engage in an open conversation, and play fair? While good communication strategies and proven tools often improve difficult situations and critical conversations - what do we do when they don't? How do we remain grounded and non-reactive to the other person?

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“The Only Thing We Have to Fear, is Fear Itself.”  FDR

"A Mindful Leadership Story by Dr. Joseph Zarge"

Like many adolescent science fiction enthusiasts of the 1970s, I read Frank Herbert's Dune and closely identified with the protagonist, Paul.  When faced with a life-threatening situation, Paul would repeat this mantra to calm his mind:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain... “

Paul’s words have stayed with me throughout my life, especially during challenging situations like my medical training, work as a physician, and athletic endeavors. In these moments, I have learned to focus on calming my mind so I perform to my best potential. Through experience, I know that once panic and fear take over, the likelihood of a good outcome drops considerably.

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