Blog

What it takes to be a more mindful leader

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I am always on the lookout for inspiring, real-life examples of corporate leaders who embody mindfulness.

This morning while enjoying my ritual morning chai at a local West Perth cafe, I couldn't help but eavesdrop on a conversation between three people at the next table.

To use HR speak, it was an 'on-boarding' meeting between two business owners and a new employee they were orientating to their business.

And as I listened-in with interest on their dialogue, it soon became apparent that these were two very mindful leaders.

The focus of their exchange over a coffee wasn't about policy and process, or performance expectations, reporting relationships or even the expected hours of the job. The focus was about getting to know the new employee and finding out what they needed from the organisation to work at their best. Sure, they shared an inspiring business vision and described their workplace culture, but the exchange was more about connecting and understanding than telling.

The tone of the conversation was calm and spacious. There were several relaxed pauses after each person spoke that showed deep listening. Even though one of the business owners had to leave shortly after the meeting began to attend another meeting, there was no hint of rush or urgency to cover a heap of material or to get across a particular viewpoint.

The two business owners eached talked about their families and the challenges around balancing work and family life. One shared about their morning meditation practice which helped them to manage stress and to be kinder to their partner. The other said they loved cycling and invited the new employee to join their local group.

A positive, yet gentle rapport had soon developed to the point where the new employee took the time to reveal some quite personal health information that needed extra care to manage whilst at work. Without hesitation, the business owner gave a clear commitment of support and offered to create a work-station that better met the new employees' needs.

A mindful leader embodies leadership presence through their focus, clarity, creativity and compassion in the service of others. I could clearly sense all four of these mindful leadership qualities.

But what I found most striking (and delightful) about this encounter was that none of these three people meeting were women - they were all men.

Professional men, dressed in charcoal suits who each bore a strong physical presence and air of success, as well as a quirky, relaxed and compassionate warmth.

I'm not suggesting that men are not mindful leaders. I am fortunate to personally know many inspirational male leaders who are very self-aware! But often it's been my experience that the 'softer skills' essential for successful and mindful corporate leadership like creativity and compassion are given lesser importance and are therefore less developed in the average male leader.

We can all learn to lead with excellence by cultivating our inherent capabilities to focus on what's important, to see more clearly what is presenting itself, to foster greater creativity and to embody compassion.

Mindfulness for both male and female leaders alike involves making more conscious choices about how we manage at work, how we manage ourselves and how we live our lives.

This mindful leadership that I was privileged to witness first-hand just made my day.

Natalie Snooke is an experienced Mindful Leadership Coach, Meditation Teacher and the founder of Momentum. She specialises in guiding leaders to develop focus, presence, creativity and compassion in their personal and professional lives. She has a background in human resource management and takes a pragmatic yet light-hearted approach to her work. 

How yoga and gardening get you back to your true nature

Alison Hilton - Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Most days my garden is my yoga. Its a joy and an ongoing reminder of impermanence and the cycle of birth, growth, flourishing and decay.

As a self-confessed gardening nerd, as well as a yogi, I love sharing tips and tricks with other more experienced gardeners and, most of all, just being 'in it' - outside with nature's green, the air and the earth.

Maybe it’s the oxygen and the beauty of nature or maybe it is just the thrill of watching something growing and transforming day by day.  Just like us, anyone with an observant eye will notice that a garden is forever changing. Not only from the seasons and weather patterns but also the animals that inhabit the space and our skills and impacts as gardeners - and as yoga practitioners.

The more I think about it, the cycle in a garden mirrors the yoga journey throughout our lives.

Sowing a seed in yoga practice first requires a healthy foundation, just as a gardener needs to tend the soil before planting. There needs to be just enough sunlight and the right combination of healthy soil and water for seedlings to burst through the soil.  In yoga practice, there needs to be just the right amount of focused yet relaxed attention, control of the breath and placement of the body for the energy to flow. 

In a garden, it’s all about the soil. It needs to be well-fed with just the right amount of nutrients for plants and flowers to grow well - and so too for us.

For yoga practice to work its wonders, our body needs the best nourishment we can give it – fresh, high-quality food in the right proportions, adequate water, plenty of rest and tender loving care. Over time through consistent self care, we begin to notice positive shifts in our physical, mental and emotional health, just as a plant begins to thicken its stalk and produce branches. 

In plants and in our yoga journey, the small changes that happen day by day are almost imperceivable but after a while, we notice just how much growth there's been.

We might notice how we have become calmer, how our tight hips have loosened or our self-esteem has improved after a few months of regular practice. Just as we might realise how tall a plant has become and delight as tiny blossums appear.

An experienced gardener expects results from their garden instantly. They might think that just planting a shrub will result in it growing! Whereas the seasoned gardener, just like the seasoned yogi, knows there is a little more to it. The key to that shrub really flourishing is the careful planning, soil cultivation and patience - just as the seasoned yogi knows the importance of having the right mindset and lifestyle to support yoga practice so we flourish in the long term. 

 Gardeners also know that there are times when we need to prune, to cut right back to the base of a plant in order for it to survive and thrive. It can look stark, bold and be quite scary to do. But after a few weeks its amazing how thickly and beautifully a plant will respond with new shoots and growth.

In a yoga practice, time and time again we need to come back to the basics. Back to the moment, back to the breath and the simplicity of it all, rather than trying to add another technique or try another yoga style or another yoga teacher. Although it can be confronting to come back to the basics rather than to entertain the whims of the mind, in yoga, less is more.  Simplicity leads to a depth of growth and inner stability, often in surprising ways.

Just as you'd think about your garden, consider where you are at in your life and in your yoga practice:

  • How might you better tend to yourself and your yoga practice?
  • Are you allowing enough time for your yoga practice (and your self growth) to really flourish?
  • What nutrients are missing from your self-care? 
  • Does anything need to be pruned back for you to rediscover simplicity?

Both gardening and yoga are about connecting us with nature and noticing things just as they are. And they are the perfect fit when it comes to reconnecting us with our true, inner nature - that's calm, content and blissful.

Happy gardening and happy yoga!
Alison

Alison Hilton has been teaching yoga at Momentum for six years and specialises in pre and postnatal yoga classes. When not refining her tree pose she is most likely to be found pruning one or smiling joyfully in her garden!  

 



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