Meet a few of the mindful leaders we helped to develop
Miranda is a leader who is adept at helping others understand, explore and unlock the hidden potential associated with different worldviews. When she assumed leadership of a prestigious children’s magazine, it was a little-known publication with a big name backing it. From Miranda’s worldview, the magazine was a stodgy, inert, publication that was missing the mark in terms of speaking to the all-important audience of “tweens” in a cooool, hip way. And, it was losing money. Miranda was smart enough to know that her view was simply one piece of information relative to the current state. So, the first action she took was to create a forum for her entire staff and key stakeholders to examine the current situation and the magazine’s challenges through their multiple lenses or perspectives.
Over the period of two days she asked questions about how they saw things. Their perspectives, their truths, were rooted in pride and a long history of serving their long-time audience—to speak disparagingly of the magazine was near sacrilege. Miranda could have tip toed around the truth as she saw it—or negated their point of view. Instead, by asking them to participate in exploring and questioning the present state, she demonstrated trust in her staff and her belief in their ability to hear all points of view. She honored their views and clearly and non-judgmentally articulated her own views as well.
Miranda then focused the group on all of the different views in the room as well as voluminous feedback that had been gathered from readers, teachers and parents. She encouraged the people assembled there to explore and discuss it all, while respecting each other with generous listening and a focus on generative problem solving. In doing so, she was able to forge a group commitment to sweeping changes that honored the past while building a new robust strategy for the future. Miranda’s ability to step back and focus on inclusiveness built a level of awareness and attentive curiosity among the group that enabled new potential futures and realities to emerge. Less than two years after facing those disturbing realities, the magazine was not only profitable, it was also the fastest growing magazine in the country and one that continues to thrive today.
William, another mindful leader with whom we have worked, understands that true power comes from having a noble purpose. We met William when he was struggling with a major move and a technology upgrade with tight deadlines and huge stakeholder implications. He seemed to be doing everything right, yet the challenge was daunting. William and his team became more mindful of their situation, much more effective as a team, and incredibly committed to the task at hand after an in depth discussion of why are we doing all of this? After a great deal of reflection, the group concurred that their work would give the organization foundation (legs) on which to roar above the competition. Every night and every weekend, you could find William and members of his team working together to make that organization roar, and actually not just working but also laughing and having a good time.
Many teams would gripe about the extra hours, the project being rushed, or the budget being inadequate. Not so with William’s team. And it’s not because they were highly compensated for all the extra time (there was no extra compensation). And it wasn’t because William was a task-master demanding that people give it their all. People naturally gave because they were connected to a greater purpose – through their effort and intellect they were giving the organization a system that would result in greater speed, flexibility and agility – arrrrrrrgh!!!! There was no need for a carrot or a stick; it was all about achieving their goal while working in service to each other for the greater good. William learned how to create that special self-sustaining state that occurs when people are committed to a noble purpose beyond themselves.
Finally, meet Anita, a leader who learned the importance of coming face to face with one’s self when trust in her and her organization was rated at 0.7 on the annual 5-point employee satisfaction survey. Anita demonstrated faith and humility when she opened the door for a disenfranchised, discouraged and disillusioned group of people to voice their concerns about their work and her leadership. Her faith and belief in people allowed her to hear the world from their perspectives. To be successful with the change that was needed Anita mastered several mindful skills. She learned the skill of staying in the moment to hear tough feedback from her group as well as from her customers. She learned to let go of the limiting beliefs and emotions that had been defining her leadership and had people referring to her as “Anita the Hun.” She learned compassion—both for self and those with whom she worked.
Instead of rationalizing and defending her leadership, Anita, held up a mirror and took a courageous look inside. In doing so, she was able recognize the impact of her behavior on others and became much more interpersonally smart. Then, she summarized what she learned and humbly reported it back to her team. She held one-one-ones to address people’s concerns, hosted forums where employees were encouraged to offer their solutions to key challenges, and consistently asked for feedback about what else people needed from her as their leader. She managed to do all of this amidst sweeping downsizing initiative. Her constant faith in her people and in those they served not only rebuilt trust; it also created a streamlined, efficient organization that is now run by a group of committed, satisfied employees.