Not long ago, the Human Resources department of a law firm asked VIM Executive Coaching to advise several members of their management team on Mindfulness Meditation. After the general session, we were approached by one of the executive leaders who asked us about the concept of stilling the mind. It is a topic we love to explore with our clients.
The reputation of this particular lawyer preceded her. To say she is brilliant is an understatement. From the moment, she graduated from a prestigious Ivy League college Magna Cum Laude, to the present-day tax law practice with all of its complexities, she has been the “go to” person in her large firm for difficult questions and opinions. From her biography, it appears she is happily married with two lovely children. To the outside world, her life is flawless.
Dwelling on the Past and Future
She asked us if she could schedule some private consultations, and we were honored. She admitted she had “flaws” as a manager. It brought us a smile of recognition!
“Who doesn’t have flaws?”
Truthfully, almost no one we have ever encountered at VIM Executive Coaching is truly a natural born leader. It just doesn’t work like that! Leadership, whether in corporate or entrepreneurial settings is a skill and a practice, no different than being a concert violinist, surgeon or a martial artist.
She admitted she had trouble letting go of past mistakes and management issues, and she also admitted to jumping ahead to issues that might be weeks or even months ahead. Part of that is understandable of course, there are trial dates and filings and all things “legal,” but those are work-related guideposts.
What she was talking about was dealing with management issues where situations were dredged up from the past, or looking for problems in the future that may never occurred.
“Are you in the present?” we asked.
Being Present in the Moment
Techniques we teach to executive leadership, such as Mindfulness Meditation stills the mind and leads us gently and peacefully into the “here and now.” We become aware of our feelings in that moment, not in the past and certainly not in the future. Meditation teaches executives to breathe and relax and to be “present.”
When we are present with our emotions and our authentic selves, we can be disciplined in what we need to do, and at the same time we can be flexible. We cannot change the past and going back to the past, as tempting as it may be causes leaders to hook themselves into “dead” emotions, mistakes, self-flagellation and even depression. The past cannot be re-written. At the same time, the future is a fantasy – good or bad.
Being in the present as a leader, no matter the work environment, allows us to really listen to others. If we are locked in the past or spend all of our time dwelling on future events, we lose our ability to reflect on what our superiors or subordinates are saying to us.
We always stress that if we are in the moment and are listening to others who come to us with problems, complaints or comments, that listening in not the same thing as being quiet. When we listen in the moment, we are respecting that those we work with want to be heard. If we “hear people,” we can better respond to them. It does not mean agreement or disagreement, simply that we are actively listening.
By stilling the mind, if only for a few minutes every day, we can better center ourselves as leaders and be consistent and authentic in how we respond to every situation. In practicing to be mindful and in the moment, our client reported increased productivity and a deeper sense of compassion and problem solving.