Finding Balance, Being Mindful

I've been hanging out with a business coach since January. Philip is a former executive, one of the original posse that started Leadership Metro Richmond (when the idea that black and white Richmonders needed to have real conversations was powerful, important and counter-intuitive) and a cornerstone of Chrysalis Institute. His game is mindfulness.

When I started looking for a business coach, I thought I was looking for someone to help me juggle faster, and better. When I met Philip, I realized (mostly in my gut) that I wasn't.

He spends a fair amount of time inviting me to be more mindful, intentional and focused. I am learning, ever so slowly, to listen in our conversations. And to remember the wisdom of another coach in my life, who continues to tell me that it's what I do before I do what I do that will make the difference in my leadership, my work and my life.

Being Mindful Works

So, I like some of the advice doled out in Philip Bregman's book18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. (Speaking of distractions, I might be on the verge of being convinced that the Serial Comma is good.) Farnam Street Blog helpfully digests the book's three simple steps for us: your morning minutes, an hourly refocus, and your evening minutes. Lather, rinse, repeat these 18 minutes for a month or so and you've got a whole new game. Being intentional about your day isn't a new idea for me, but I don't spend enough consistent time (5 minutes in the evening, Bregman suggests) reflecting on how things went. Here are his questions to ask at the end of the day:

How did the day go? What success did I experience? What challenges did I endure? What did I learn today? About myself? About others? What do I plan to do—differently or the same— tomorrow? Whom did I interact with? Anyone I need to update? Thank? Ask a question of? Share feedback with?


Know What Matters

ot too different is a blog post from CleverKate. Reading her bio reminds me of Larkin Garbee, who runs 804RVA and 12,000 other miscellaneous, cool things around town. Busy!  Her most popular post -- "Why My Life Doesn't Suck" -- dives into her secret to being happy and getting way too much stuff done. (Her secret? Self-awareness.) She started a list of things she loved -- people, ideas, essentially two months of verbal interesting -- and two months later, she boiled them down into six themes, or personal values. Her results?

Once established, I thought it would be a good idea to fill my life with only things that fed these values until I felt like I had mastered them. The best part: the results are clearly seen in my parenting, my work, my relationships, my posts, my connectedness every day. What could be better than that? It drives everything I do, and is wholly who I am.



Finally, we arrive at self-confrontation. You may have heard it phrased as "looking in the mirror". A great book -- seriously great, and the topic of an upcoming workshop I'm facilitating with a team from Virginia Commonwealth University next month -- is "Leadership and Self-Deception". Self-deception is the Mirror Universe Spock to self-confontation. (That means it is it's evil twin, with a Fu Manchu beard.)

This particular lesson on self-confrontation comes from Dan Oestreich's blog, Unfolding Leadership. The heart of reflective leadership, he suggests, is the capacity for self-confrontation.

It is not really a skill. It is more of a "psychological move," a mental and emotional re-positioning to look very honestly at oneself and one's situation.

A few key takeaways from his too-brief post:

  1. "It's easier to believe in self-confrontation when talking about other people. If only they would be honest with themselves, things would get better."
  2. "We can be absolutely certain of our experience of others only to discover, too late, how wrong we were."
  3. "Self-confrontation only really works when it is wrapped in love."

I'm particularly drawn to that last point. I'm not sure I could count on two hands the number of leaders I've worked with in recent years who demonstrate a significant and consistent capacity for love as part of their leadership. Not mushy, idealized love, but leading from a place of honest, non-patronizing and genuine care for themselves and those around them. Hard stuff!