Leaders: Look Up!

by Alli Polin on March 8, 2013

leaders look up and practice engaged mindfulness

Imagine the scene:  My kids are in the back of the car and I’m in the front seat with my husband.  We’re driving down some of the most beautiful coastline in the world on the way to our family summer holiday.  Every turn is more beautiful than I could ever imagine.  I oohh and ahhh and ask, “Kids!  Did you see that?  Can you believe how gorgeous this is?  Look up!”  I am met with some grunts from the back that sound like “yeah” but their eyes rarely leave their iPad screens.  They are missing the amazing experience right in front of them. 

It happens to all of us.  We get so caught up in the details of what we’re doing and we miss where we are and how far we’ve come.

You’ve got to get your head out of the minutiae to see where you’re going, where you are, and where you’ve been.

Leaders: Look Up!

  • Instead of seeing all the tasks that have yet to be completed, look at the history of accomplishment that got you to this moment.
  • Your team is giving it their all, notice their contributions and acknowledge their hard work and effort
  • Keep your eye on the vision and you’ll discover that there is more than one path to take to get there
  • You are not alone, but surrounded by people waiting to help if you ask
  • Your family and friends love you and would like to see you.  The work will be there tomorrow
  • The goal isn’t perfection, it’s giving your best while still moving forward

Mindfulness is cultivating an appreciation for the present moment, and accepting it for what it is, instead of longing for what’s missing. 

If you think you don’t have time for new age crap like mindfulness at work, you’re wrong.  It’s not crap, it’s all about choice and intention. 

Get Quiet: 

When you only hear your own internal dialog, you’re blocking the ideas and insights of others.  When you learn to intentionally shut down the internal noise you’ll be able to hear and see the wisdom around you.

Be Creative vs. Reactive: 

Constantly battling one fire after another leaves little room for creativity.  Creative behaviors include building your self-awareness and authenticity while simultaneously increasing your system-awareness.  You can’t do that without being in the here and now.

Stay Calm: 

It’s easy to get worked up by every small thing that hits your radar.  When you choose to take a deep breath and stay calm.  Be a model for helping others to discover solutions instead of dictating both approach and outcome.   Listen and ask questions based in authentic curiosity and mindfulness will help you to stay present to help uncover the answers.

Don’t Only Think, Feel: 

Smart leaders not only engage their brain but also their hearts.  Let’ be clear, feeling emotion is not the same as being emotional.  Mindfulness enables leaders to feel, and be fully present in the experience, instead of being separated from it by logic and over-analysis.

Leaders: Look up and enjoy this moment  Ultimately, mindfulness starts with looking up and away from the details, freeing you up for the journey within. 

How have you practiced mindfulness as a leader?  How has mindfulness helped you to be the leader that you most want to be?

(Photo credit)

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Forbes March 8, 2013 at 6:47 am

Alli, Your intro reminds me of a summer vacation to the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Our teenage son played video games with head down the entire trip. He stayed in the car when my wife and I took hikes along a gorgeous creek. Yet, years later he said it was the best vacation trip ever.

He seemed disengaged, but in his own way was engaged. Yet, he missed so much without ever being aware of doing so.

Reply

Alli Polin March 8, 2013 at 6:50 am

Dan –

Our kids would say the same! But… we did institute a no iPad rule for large portions of the trip. I think you hit it on the head when you wrote: “he missed so much without ever being aware he was doing so.” The same holds true for the world of work. We become so immersed in the details we don’t stop to notice where we are and fully embrace the present moment.

Thanks for sharing your experience and insights, Dan!

Reply

Jon Mertz March 8, 2013 at 7:55 am

Alli, Being in the moment is essential, and mindfulness facilitates this effectively. It is so important to just “be” at times. Great reminder. Thanks! Jon

Reply

Alli Polin March 8, 2013 at 8:02 am

Thanks, Jon! Yes, giving ourselves the space to just “be” is an incredible gift that sometimes feels out of reach in the push to do more, have more, be more world we live in. When we’re truly in the moment is when leaders are the most authentic, connected and at their best.

Reply

Chery Gegelman March 8, 2013 at 8:43 am

Great post Alli! These two quotes resonated loudly! Thank you!

Instead of seeing all the tasks that have yet to be completed, look at the history of accomplishment that got you to this moment.

You are not alone, but surrounded by people waiting to help if you ask

Reply

Alli Polin March 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm

It’s so easy to get lost in the to-do list. They serve as reminders to me to stop beating myself up about slow progress and doing more. When I look up and engage with people and with life, the tasks that were weighing me down are somehow lighter. Thank you, Chery!

Reply

Dave Moore March 8, 2013 at 11:38 am

Great stories in your post Alli, I love the way you create such vivid imagery but also keep it in tandem with the content of the post which was, as usual, very thought provoking.

Dave

Reply

Alli Polin March 8, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Thanks, Dave! You are a master at weaving stories to bring your posts to life! Stories breathe life into the learning. The lessons from this drive are important and some that I will not soon forget. Appreciate your kind words!

Reply

Susan Mazza March 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Mindfulness is one of my favorite topics and is a lifelong quest. It is most definitely not crap!!! Sometimes it is not only my daughter who is looking down at her screen in the car! It seems we have just replaced the chatter in our heads with an ever present external distraction.

One of my favorite books is Mindfulness by Ellen Langer – it’s been a great tool for helping those who think mindfulness is not worth their time to get over it.

I especially love your advice to not only think, but feel.

Reply

Alli Polin March 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Susan – You’re right! While my kids were immersed in their games in the back, I was on FaceTime and checking email since I had a few hours in the car. When it hit me that I’ll never be driving those roads again I looked up and somehow the experience was more than a few postcard snapshots. I not only saw the beauty but felt deep inside, I was vibrating with the moment and still carry the memory of the feeling with me.

Thanks for the book suggestion – It’s now officially on my list to read. Mindfulness takes intention and practice but is well worth the effort.

Appreciate your comment very much!

Reply

Stephen Lahey March 8, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I interviewed a seasoned entrepreneur recently (Tim Berry). It’s uncanny how much several of your bullet points compliment what he told me. These, in particular:
– “You are not alone, but surrounded by people waiting to help if you ask
– Your family and friends love you and would like to see you. The work will be there tomorrow
– The goal isn’t perfection, it’s giving your best while still moving forward”

Beautifully stated – a lot of wisdom in that post for all of us, Alli. Glad that I subscribed to your blog.

Reply

Alli Polin March 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Many thanks, Steve! Those points are so true but in the business of life and work somehow those truths get lost. They definitely serve as a reminder to me to really think about what I’m doing and in turn, NOT doing that matters deeply to me as well. Thanks for adding depth to this post and forwarding the conversation around this topic!

Reply

Amber-Lee Dibble March 14, 2013 at 10:24 pm

As a mom too, I totally understand! My 14 year old son has a solar backpack so he can recharge his Nook reader while we camp! Sheesh….

I absolutely LOVE this post. The comments above pretty much covered what hit me as well about it but FYI, I am putting it on my Listly list as a Mind-Blowing Thought…
“Instead of seeing all the tasks that have yet to be completed, look at the history of accomplishment that got you to this moment.”

Thanks Alli. Beautiful.

Reply

Alli Polin March 14, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Thank you, Amber-Lee! I’m touched! I know that I fall into the moment of drowning with to-dos and how far I am from my goals but looking back while we’re looking forward can be powerful!

Glad to know I’m not the only one that has children that love their technology and want to go on adventures!

Appreciate you tremendously!

Reply

Leave a Comment