DANIEL MONTGOMERY Founder & CEO Leadership Reality
How close are you with your employees? Do you feel very connected?
I once saw an episode of the Office where Michael Scott spent the entire episode trying to work his way into the “loop.” In scene after scene, he’d awkwardly insert himself into conversations and ask cringe-inducing questions like, “What’s the scuttlebutt?”
Michael Scott is a farce, for sure. Still, the image of lonely manager floating around the office and trying to force a connection with his employees sends shivers down my spine.
Leaders struggle to connect with their people. Half of the CEOs out there wrestle mightily with loneliness. When asked, 61% of them say it negatively impacts their job performance.
What contributes to leader loneliness? Really, what doesn’t?
- The corner office
- The exalted title
- The pay disparity
- The authority barrier
- The generational gap
Leadership is an inherently lonely enterprise. The line between leading and “just talking a walk” is often razor thin. We usually don’t know we’ve crossed over from the former to the latter until we find ourselves standing alone in a bypath meadow.
The Mindful Path to Reconnection
Isolation is dehumanizing. As a Christian, I believe we are all made in the image of the one God who is mysteriously three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. Each one of us is created to enjoy connection with that perfect triune community, as well as one another.
Recovering that sense of connection—especially, at work—doesn’t seem like a job for mindfulness. Meditation bends inward, not outward.
Even so, research suggests that mindfulness can bear significant fruit in social contexts. In part, that’s due to the positive effects meditation can have on the areas of the brain that control emotion, spur empathy, and promote compassion.
This shouldn’t surprise us. Leaders who lack awareness and control of their emotions tend to isolate and alienate. On the other end of the spectrum, the greatest leaders are those who master their emotions in order to better connect with and serve others.
The CEO Exercise
To start training mindful connection, try this 3-minute CEO exercise:
Center – Stop and breathe. Don’t think about who they are. Don’t think about who you are. Just be.
Embrace – Shift your attention to the people in your immediate circle. What do they bring to the table? How do they benefit the team? How do they make you better? Welcome each one with gratitude.
Offer – Finally, shift the attention back to yourself. What do you bring to the team? How can you serve your people? How can you make others better today?
This simple exercise will help you recover the mutual give-and-take the underlies any relationship in the workplace by answering two critical questions: what can they do for me; and what can I do for them?
Still, connection is more than reciprocity. It’s a product of our mutual commitment to a larger vision or purpose. If we seek connection, we won’t find it. But if, alongside our team, we go on mission together, we’ll find we connect along the way.
That’s why the CEO exercise I just shared needs to be paired especially with place and story. To connect well others, you need to understand where you are and why.
A Challenge to Connect
For the next week, give yourself an extra 3 minutes to sit in the car every morning and run through the exercise before you walk into the office. Center your awareness and prepare to embrace the gifts your team brings even as you offer yourself up for them.
Do that every day, and you’ll be well on your way to reconnecting with your team.
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