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Micro-Practices to Empower Leadership

“Rewarding Reads” is a space for articles and personal essays meant to be thought-provoking and informative for human resources professionals, from sharing the “human” perspectives on workplace issues to book reviews of business titles we find inspiring. Have an essay or blog post to share? Contact us at workspan@worldatwork.org.

By now, we can all agree on the need for emotional and social intelligence (EI and SI, respectively) in the workplace. Personal development is no longer a nice-to-have — it is a requirement for optimizing performance, collaboration and job satisfaction.

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Sadly, most of us have had an experience or two (or 10 or 100) when we have had to respond to negativity, defensiveness and passive-aggressiveness in the workplace. Frequently, forms of bullying are also thrown into the mix. And, an increasing number of studies are documenting the impact of this kind of low EI and SI — namely, the resource drain that results from dealing with these behaviors.

Also not in question is the importance of cultivating empathy, resilience and discernment. While more training is currently being offered, these qualities are impossible to learn from theory. Practice and experience are required to embody them.

That’s where embodied mindfulness comes in.

Ask yourself: How frequently can you master empathy in the heat of a high stress moment? An employee blasts you with an emotional outburst, an irate customer blames you for their error, a boss throws you under the bus in a meeting — these are just a few examples.

Embodied mindfulness provides an immersive learning tool to develop empathy, resilience and discernment in the moment. Experiential learning like this leads to long-term skills enhancement and behavioral change.

Pause, now, just for a moment, before a popular excuse shuts down your consideration of mindfulness. A deflection may have already occurred, an internal voice saying, “I don’t have the time for one more thing” or “I just can’t quiet my mind.” Imagine the possibility that you could learn this new behavior with small practices that fit into your life with ease.

Micro-practices in embodied mindfulness enable skill development in the moment, without requiring a block of your already overcrowded calendar. They can easily be adapted into your existing daily schedule, without necessitating time off for training. These practices offer an immediate return on investment with the dividends of clearer focus and enhanced well-being. And you may even begin to feel as if your load has lightened.

Tools You Can Use

What are some mindful micro-practices that you can use to put the theory into practice every day?

  • Alignment moments

Notice how your body feels at regular intervals, like when you are switching from one activity or project to another. In order to transition, stand and stretch for a moment. Ground your feet under your shoulders, parallel to each other. Notice if discomfort is occurring in any areas of your body from the way you have been sitting or standing. Correct your posture and notice the renewed energy you receive from an aligned physical body.

  • Breathing focus

When you feel your energy or focus lagging, or you experience stress, your breath can bring you back to center. Focus your awareness on your nostrils and the sensation of the breath flowing in and out. By inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left, you can focus and recharge your energy. By inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right, you can calm your nervous system. A one- to two- minute practice can noticeably balance your energy. This can be done anywhere, without outward indication of the exercise.

  • Mindful walking

The trip from the car/bus/subway to your office, the walk to a meeting or to the restrooms, are opportunities to recharge and find center. While walking, decide to quiet the mind and let go of the racing brain for those few minutes. Rather than your thoughts, place attention on your sensations: the feeling of the breath moving through the body, the mindful placement of each foot on the ground. Each moment of practice builds the muscle of awareness and enables you to keep your calm even in stressful situations.

  • Active listening.

When interacting with someone low on the EI/SI scale, focus on your breath to remain calm. Listen to the information that is being provided without personalizing it, as if it were an important lecture or lesson to absorb. Have the intention to reflect back understanding without judgment or triggered reaction. Say back what you have heard without editorializing, advising or defending. Giving another person the opportunity to be heard — no matter what your personal perspective is — can diffuse a conflict and provide you an opening for resolution.

These four activities, practiced during the small transitional moments of your day, will begin to shift your experience of the world and how you interact with it. Each builds the muscles of empathy, resilience and discernment. With a focus on holding your own center and developing equanimity in the face of whatever presents itself, you can begin to transform the world around you.

Be a leader who leads by example, knowing that true power comes from self-awareness and holding center.

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About the Author

Robin Patino is an embodied mindfulness facilitator, storyteller and principal consultant of Creating a New Now. She guides wellness programs with individuals and organizations to enhance empathy, resilience and focus through immersive learning experiences.


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