Paying Attention

Today’s message is one I expect you have heard many times before. It is easy to understand, and it is often difficult to do well in today’s society. It is essential to show support for your employees and colleagues and grow employee engagement. I’m talking about being fully present with others and whatever activity you are focused on.

My Presence Origin Story

I got an early start on this one. When I was ten, I remember how much I hated doing the dishes. That responsibility rotated between each family member, and I would complain and whine when it was my turn. One day my philosopher father suggested I take a Buddhist approach – rather than complain, I should be fully engaged in the dishes. I thought this was silly, and from that day forward, I would joke that I was “one with the dishes” while I did them. And yet, it worked. With that change in perspective, my relationship with doing the dishes had changed, and I enjoyed myself. Looking back, I realize that rooted the importance of being fully present for me.

My Presence in Action

Last week I had the honor of running the Boston Marathon. For the first time in my running career, I ran the entire marathon without using my headphones. The weather, the crowds, and the atmosphere were fantastic. I wanted to experience every moment from the downhill start; the Wellesley scream tunnel, the cheering Boston College fans as you crested Heartbreak Hill, and the amazing spectators six-people-deep in the final miles through downtown Boston. The energy was incredible, and I’ll never forget the experience. I’m so grateful I didn’t give that up for a playlist I’ve listened to 1,000 times before.

I’ve had similar experiences in training runs. Yes, I do use my headphones a lot. I like to listen to music for hard workouts, podcasts, or books on easy runs. But increasingly, I’m going without the headphones. What is impressive is how much more aware I am of nature, what surrounds me, and my own body. In one instance, I approached the steep hill I use for hill workouts on an easy run. Even though intellectually, I knew I would run it slow and easy, subconsciously, my body knew this was the workout hill, and I felt the muscles in my legs and core tense up in preparation for an uphill sprint. I never notice anything like that with my headphones. On race day, that kind of awareness of my body can help me adjust.

If this kind of mindfulness can tune you into your own body and surroundings, imagine what it does when you’re engaged with other people. When I coach, I have a ritual before each session. I close down every app except Zoom and my note for the coachee. I put my phone into focus mode to prevent notifications from distracting me. And finally, I spend several minutes centering to clear my head of any distracting thoughts, so when I join my coaching session, I’m fully present and engaged with my coachee. This does wonders for my mindfulness and helps me be the best coach I can be.

Your Presence in Action

When you meet with your employees in 1:1s, do you take time beforehand to get ready for the meeting, eliminate distractions and make sure you are fully present? Or do you rush in late from a previous meeting and scan email and Slack for fires while talking with them? If it’s the latter, how is that serving your employees? Is that the leader you want to be?

How about at home? When interacting with your partner, your children, or your close friends? 

Taking two minutes ahead of any meaningful interaction to center yourself, collect your thoughts, and eliminate distractions can do wonders to improve your quality of life and the health of your relationships. I invite you to start putting this into practice today. 

Schedule time with Josh.

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