Today’s managers face a stressful reality: they are always under pressure, always on, information overloaded and distracted. This reality is a non-stop attack on their attention.
Researchers have found that our attention has decreased significantly over the past decade. To be precise, we are involuntarily not paying attention 47% of our waking hours. It is called attention deficit trait. And it’s a problem.
When we are not paying attention—well, we don’t pay attention. And we miss important input. It could be input from clients that makes us miss an important deal, or input from the people we lead making us lose that connection.
According to Harvard Professor Ellen Langer, attention is the first rule of performance. If we miss out on attention, we miss out on performance.
But attention can be trained. And mindfulness is the tool. For a decade, we have trained thousands of managers in large organizations around the world to be more mindful and have stronger attention. Based on our experience, here are three mantras for you to become a more mindful manager.
Be Fully Present with Your People
According to an ancient proverb, presence is the biggest gift you can give to another. And that counts double for managers. Your full attention and presence with your people is a key differentiator for their loyalty, engagement and performance. One short moment of undivided mental attention speaks louder than an hour of physical presence.
Use every encounter as a management touchpoint; at the coffee machine, in the hallways. Make sure to connect. Be present. Even if only for a few seconds.
Avoid Busyness – Care for Yourself Before Anything Else
Busyness is the new normal. But there is an important distinction between internal and external busyness. External busyness encompasses tons of emails, meetings and distractions. Those are only a problem if they turn into inner busyness.
Inner busyness is when emails, meetings and distractions get to you and get you out of balance. Inner busyness is a problem. Inner busyness makes it impossible for you to be fully present with your clients or your people.
The Chinese syllable for busyness consists of two words: heart and death. When you have inner busyness, you risk killing your heart and losing your connection with others and yourself.
Developing a stellar inner calm despite outer storms makes the difference between good and great leaders. And one thing will help you to inner calm: A daily mindfulness practice.
Practice 10 Minutes of Mindfulness Every Morning
A mindfulness practice has proven to lower blood pressure, improve sleep and decrease stress. Further, it has been linked with greater happiness and focus along with higher performance. But like any discipline, it requires training.
Develop a ritual of spending 10 minutes a day to practice mindfulness, ideally in the morning, to set a present direction for the day. Here is a simple formula:
- Sit comfortably on a chair and relax.
- Attend gently and fully to the experience of your breath flowing in and out of your body.
- Count your breaths at the end of your outbreath, to keep on track.
- Anytime you get distracted, acknowledge and gently return to the breath again.
To learn more, download our award-winning mindfulness app (TPP) on IPhone and Android Google Play.
Leading a mindful life both at work and home is a learning process. Discover more essential management tools with AMA's seminars and resources.