The Pandemic Pause: 5 Qualities of a Mindful Leader

How does mindfulness play a role during COVID?

And given that the pandemic has forced us to really take a pause, what can we do to adapt and learn from mindfulness habits in order to simply be calmer and more focused?

In 1988, I was preparing for my first 280-mile solo flight.  I started in Stratford, Connecticut, and I was supposed to fly to a town called Concord, New Hampshire. As I crossed the state border from Massachusetts into New Hampshire, something strange happened. My plane was tracking towards an airport.

But it wasn’t the Concord airport.

I looked on the map a couple of times and realized I was headed towards a highly controlled airport known as Manchester. I had lost my direction, and, for a moment, my plans were confusing.

How many of you feel like all of your best laid plans and old ways of working just aren’t “landing” in this moment? How many of you just feel like you’re no longer the captain of your own flight?

If you’re being honest, I’m sure most of us would say that things are not going as we had hoped. I want to suggest that there are lessons we can learn from mindfulness to help steer us back on course.

Mindfulness is a term that has been overused in a lot of communities, but I like very simple definitions.

Think of mindfulness as non-judgmental awareness in the present moment.

Mindfulness comes in all different flavors. For some people, it’s practicing yoga, For others, it’s tai chi, or chi gong, or meditation. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and you can discover the one that works for you. Mindfulness can have real world benefits in how you lead people and communicate with stakeholders.

Here are the 5 qualities of a mindful leader:

  1. Acceptance
    We often see ourselves as agents of innovation and transformation, spending much of our day inspiring others to embrace change. But we need to first understand how we operate in the world. If not, it’s very difficult to leverage our strengths, and inspire others to join us in whatever movement we are leading.

    I recently received a call from a well-known CMO from the manufacturing industry. She had all the best tools you can imagine, but for some reason couldn’t get her team to align with their priorities. This CMO has a $70 million big bet that she must deliver on in the next 12 months.

    What we found during our conversation is that she was resisting reality. She was not accepting the fact her team members are all in a state of trauma and grief. And when we grieve, we cannot be our best selves.

    In our conversation, she came to accept that what got her here would not get her there. She had to try some new approaches to inspire her teams. She’s also much more accepting now of the fact that there are a lot of people facing grief and stress right now.

    If you are a marketer or a CEO, you have to learn new skills right now, and you have to accept the fact that dealing with collective grief and trauma are part of our current reality.

  2. Aliveness
    Have you ever met and you just say, “Gosh, I want to spend more time with that person?”

    As I’ve studied mindfulness and energy, and how humans work, I’ve learned that when people are enthusiastic about their lives, there’s a notable change in their in their skin tone, and in their eyes, and even in their tone of voice.

    Science has shown that being in a state of aliveness and positivity can have a medical and psychological impact on you. When you spend time with an “alive” person, their thoughts are positive more than they are negative, and they have management tools to keep themselves more often on the positive channel than the doom and gloom channel.

  3. Articulateness
    It’s a really good time to look at your company’s vision and messaging and ask yourselves: “Are we being as succinct as we can be?”

    In their 2020 State of Brand Consistency, Lucidpress reports that their survey respondents see an average of 33% in growth if they maintained brand and messaging consistency. Right now, some companies realize that they not only have to do not only do things differently, but also have to be a different organization and communicate a different message. Customer needs are different, and you need to understand your superpowers that enable you to address those changing market needs. You need to articulate how you can improve your customers’ condition in new ways.

  4. Aggregation
    If you are a mindful and strategic marketing leader, you will find inspiration from a multitude of sources. You seek patterns across seemingly disparate platforms and places. Your life is probably  enriched by  several  hobbies and interests.

    When we hosted our CMOs Leading Innovation Conference last year, one of our speakers was Katia Walsh, CMO of Levi Strauss. Katia possesses a deep understanding of AI and building global innovation programs. One of her gifts is she speaks multiple languages. Her ability to connect with people and really listen deeply allowed her ramp up time at Levi Strauss to be very short.

  5. Adaptability
    Many of us have found ourselves shifting gears in response to this pandemic, probably more than you ever have.

    A great example is a mid-market financial services firm in our community. They published a beautiful return to work document, with incredible graphics and an accompanying video to help ensure their 2500 employees returned to work safely.

    And then, of course, the pandemic wave hit again this week. Now they have to do some retrenching on how and when will people return to work.

    While conducting research for The Mindful Marketer, I met Barbara Messing, the former CMO of TripAdvisor. When she started working at TripAdvisor, she noticed that everybody was constantly staring at their phones and wasn’t able to really deepen trust and o connection with each other. She introduced new procedures and programs that helped people come to meetings and connect with each other, and put down the digital devices. During the time she worked at TripAdvisor, these programs helped employee engagement scores improve by 20%.

We cannot fly by the seat of our pants during this pandemic. With awareness and discipline comes freedom. If you just tried on one of these five qualities today—and for the next 30 days, how could it improve your life?

Here’s the LinkedIn Live replay of this session – please enjoy.

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