Taking AIM: How mindfulness can improve your ability to lead
How often do you feel that you are just a passive recipient of change, with no influence over the impact it has on you? Do you feel trapped in the need to keep up appearances and pretend to be someone you’re not at work? Do you find yourself telling people how busy you are—as if it were a badge of honor?
In a new book, Mind Time, Ashridge Executive Education professors Megan Reitz and Michael Chaskalson question whether the frantic pace of our working lives is actually making us less productive and having a detrimental impact on our ability to lead people effectively.
They suggest that stepping off the treadmill and practicing mindfulness consistently—for as little as ten minutes a day—can make us happier, healthier, and improve our ability to deal with the challenges work throws at us.
This is because consistent “mind time” helps us develop three key capacities, which support us in making better decisions, improving working relationships, and building resilience.
These three capacities are collectively referred to as AIM:
Allowing – an attitude of kindness and acceptance
Inquiry – a curiosity about what is happening in the moment
Meta-awareness – the ability to observe thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulses as they are happening and to see them as temporary and not facts
Learning to AIM can help us build better relationships, make better decisions, and become more creative and innovative in the way we lead people. Here’s how:
Allowing involves approaching a situation with an attitude of openness and kindness to ourselves and others.
It’s not about being passive or giving up—it’s about facing up to what is actually going on in each passing moment and using our energy more productively, rather than wasting it wishing things were different.
Allowing has two sides to it. With the wisdom side, you let what is the case be the case, instead of constantly railing against things you can’t change. Your actions are rooted in acknowledging the current reality of things. And as a result, your actions are more effective.
The compassion side involves being kinder and more appreciative towards ourselves and others in the workplace. We are then able to slow down enough to take account of another person’s needs and to empathize with their situation. This means they feel more seen, heard, and understood—and are more likely to support us.
Inquiry involves taking a lively interest in what is going on for us and around us.
As we develop our capacity for inquiry, we begin to notice what’s happening inside ourselves—our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulses—right now. We also notice what is going on for other people, and we become more aware of the dynamics of the relationship between ourselves and the people we work alongside.
Inquiry helps us broaden our attention and see things we perhaps we wouldn’t otherwise see. As a result, we become more innovative and creative. It also helps us to get out of “automatic pilot”—where we passively allow the circumstances around us dictate our decisions. Being curious and asking questions leads to change. If we don’t inquire, then we have no impetus to do anything differently or to learn.
Meta-awareness refers to our capacity to observe our own thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulsive behaviors as we are experiencing them in the present moment. It is the foundation of self-awareness and crucial in developing our ability to adapt, change, and develop.
For example, have you ever come into work in a foul mood and noticed that, within a couple of minutes, everyone else’s mood has dropped like a stone in response? Meta-awareness helps us to notice how we are feeling and the signals we are sending. If we can be aware of these things, then we have an opportunity to choose to change our behavior.
That is important for us and for those around us. As author Nancy Kline says, “Know your face.” Being aware of the expression on our face—and the message it conveys—is just one way meta-awareness is vital to developing successful and productive relationships, allowing us to interact and collaborate with others more effectively.
Responding vs. reacting
Collectively, AIM equips us with perhaps the most important leadership capacity of all: the space to respond rather than react. Therefore, we have the capacity to choose more thoughtfully, ethically, and productively to the pressing leadership challenges that we all face.
Want to improve your AIM?
You can download a series of free 10-minute mindfulness practices by visiting www.mindtime.me
Thought Leadership Webinar with Professor Megan Reitz
If you’d like to hear more from Megan on mindfulness, you can join her for an upcoming webinar about developing resilience and collaboration in a complex world.
Webinar 1: May 24, 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM BST
Learn more and register
Webinar 2: May 24, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM BST
Learn more and register