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“Be organized and structure your time.” With Beau Henderson & Antonia Hock

Be organized and structure your time — I need to have a plan for each day that allows me to structure my time with intention and organization. Each of us has more to accomplish in any day than we can possibly complete, so being intentional with your time is an important extension of being mindful. I […]

Be organized and structure your time — I need to have a plan for each day that allows me to structure my time with intention and organization. Each of us has more to accomplish in any day than we can possibly complete, so being intentional with your time is an important extension of being mindful. I reflect on what is most important to me, and I also think about what meetings or engagements are likely to be difficult or challenging, so I can structure them in a way that allows me to be calm and present.


As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Antonia Hock.

As the global head of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, Antonia Hock leads a dynamic advisory business focused on innovating the Customer Experience (CX) and Talent Experience (TX) for clients worldwide. The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center delivers award-winning services that have allowed thousands of clients to improve customer and employee engagement, transform their culture, drive brand loyalty, and create an extraordinary customer experience. Under her leadership, The Leadership Center has created incredible competitive advantages for some of the biggest brands in the world. Antonia is a sought-after, author, thought leader and frequent global keynote featured speaker. She is considered a global expert on organizational transformation and building experience-based brands, creating a culture of customer-centricity, empowering employees and issues around diversity in the workforce, and innovating experiences for the future. She currently works with many internationally acclaimed speakers’ bureaus as well as directly with numerous Fortune 500 C-Suite cross-industry clients in both an advisory and speaker capacity. Prior to The Ritz-Carlton, Antonia spent twenty years as an executive in technology working for progressive fast-moving companies such as Microsoft, HP, Siemens Enterprise Communications, and MicroStrategy.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Icame to terms early in my career that I was driven towards chaos, turnarounds, new ideas, start-ups — anything that was a “build” vs. a stable, run-rate business that needed only incremental improvement to thrive. I also love working with big brands that have resources and an appetite for being market-makers through innovation and calculated risk. When I was presented with the opportunity to work for a heritage brand like The-Ritz-Carlton — but with the new twist of taking that legendary service to market as a methodology that can be implemented in Fortune 500 companies to drive business performance, I knew I had to jump. From the first conversation with leadership, I was hooked.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’ve always been passionate about hiring talent and unique characteristics over strictly adhering to a job description, and I’ve followed that passion throughout my career. My experience is that this is not the norm at most companies, so I have many stories involving hiring talent for business. The one that stands out for me is a hiring experience from many years ago. I interviewed a gentleman for an account executive role on my team. He was a call center representative in a rural part of Virginia making $21K per year. I knew after our interview that he was talented and had unique abilities that would make him very successful. Other interviewers felt his pedigree was not appropriate, his salary was a surrogate for his quality, and they recommended a no hire. I felt strongly he would be an excellent fit, and I moved forward with a hire recommendation anyway. I was told that I was risking my career and my reputation, and I should select a “safer” candidate. I had to go all the way to our CEO for an exception to our hiring practices because his salary and package were so disparate with our model. We hired him on a $90K base which was our standard package, and he went on to go to Platinum Sales Club 4 years straight- including his first year in the role. Then he left to write a best-selling book, and ultimately went on to be an EVP at a major publishing house. The lesson I always share with leaders is that talent is talent, and everyone should be evaluated on their ability, not their current circumstances. As a leader, I have always felt strongly that it is my calling to find the best characteristics and talent, and then to help each person to achieve to their highest potential.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

The culture of a team will only ever be as strong as the leader’s ability to support, reinforce, and enrich that culture. When I speak with leaders about creating and sustaining a great work culture, I focus on eight concepts, but right now in our COVID 19-world, I’m regularly emphasizing the following three:

Take the Time to Really See: In my experience, it is a rare gift to have a leader that really takes the time to see you for who you are. This means that a leader sees all your best attributes and your flaws, and they encourage and motivate you to grow across that spectrum. Talent is talent, and it comes in many forms. Anytime you can get an employee to show up at work in the fullest sense, without boundary, you will get the best work, the most honest debate, and the best overall solutions and outcomes.

Take the Bullets: Exceptional leaders are always prepared to accept all the worst outcomes for their team. This means that no matter what you feel personal, you are fully prepared to be the face of your organization without deflecting blame or consequence to others. You are a shield and support that allows your team to continue to progress without fear of retribution for failure or challenges.

Inject Energy: Teams derive their energy and momentum from their leader. The top leaders bring high energy, encouragement, and inspiration to their teams always. As a leader, it’s obligatory to check your personal daily perspective at the door and ensure that you are ready to inspire the best from your broader team.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Reading and studying Plato’s Allegory of the Cave changed my trajectory of thought when I was in my early 20s, and, like any watershed, it continues to influence my thought patterns today. I love this book because it challenges us to examine reality and how we experience and interpret the world around us. I think it’s important to constantly examine our thoughts and challenge our own biases as we move through the world. I was raised in a very humble academic environment, and my experience with this book opened my mind to an incredible world of philosophy, debate, and thinking that I had never accessed before. From that point forward, I actively sought opportunities to read, learn, and debate philosophy of all genres.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

For me, mindfulness is expressly about being fully aware, accepting, and in control of your thoughts and feelings. I find that many people go through the day allowing their thoughts and feelings to run unabated through them without taking the time to examine and exert any control over that energy. What you spend your time thinking and feeling will consume your strength, so it is very important to be active in the choice of what you allow. These choices directly impact your outlook, contributions, and health every day.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

There is so much in our lives that we do not control, and mindfulness is a tool that each of us can utilize to exert our own control. We have all heard the statement that, “we don’t control what happens to us, but we do control our response”. This is a simple statement of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ultimate expression of controlling what we want in our lives — starting with what we choose to think and feel. Being present, accepting and releasing feelings, and actively dwelling on positive things that are important to each of us has many benefits that have been extensively studied. These include lowering blood pressure, increasing mental agility, increasing feelings of connectedness and gratitude, being fully present for our day, and decreasing anxiety.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

Start the day with reflection & intention — Take 10 minutes to sit, focus only on yourself and your own mind. Reflect on what is challenging you, let feelings go from yesterday or anything that surfaced in the morning, and set your intentions for the day. This time should not be spent on to-do lists, what you need to do for others, or what projects you need to complete. This time is all about clearing your mind of clutter, reflecting on what you personally want to feel in that day, and how you intend to act throughout the day as a reflection of what you stand for and who you are.

Be organized and structure your time — I need to have a plan for each day that allows me to structure my time with intention and organization. Each of us has more to accomplish in any day than we can possibly complete, so being intentional with your time is an important extension of being mindful. I reflect on what is most important to me, and I also think about what meetings or engagements are likely to be difficult or challenging, so I can structure them in a way that allows me to be calm and present.

During the day, examine feelings when they happen — Don’t just experience feelings without reflection. When you feel any extreme emotion: anger, irritation, or elation, step back from that feeling for a moment, take yourself out of the experience, and think about what is driving it — get to the root by being honest with yourself. If it’s a negative feeling — do you really need to feel it for any longer? Can you just acknowledge it, release it, and move on? I love the Winston Churchill quote, “You’ll never reach your destination if you stop and throw rocks at every dog that barks.” Think about your feelings through this lens — Are they helpful? Are they getting you to what you want for yourself?

Take 5 minutes in the middle of the day to step back and focus on yourself — We live in such a hectic world of distraction and immediate need that I find it helps to take 5 minutes somewhere in the middle of the day to reflect on how my day is actual going and re-center if I needed. If I’m having a great day, I remind myself to be grateful and to think about how to pass that along to others. If I am having a challenging day, I think about what I need to release and how I can reestablish a sense of calm, clarity, and control that leads to a better second half of the day. No day is promised to any of us, so I focus on delivering my best contribution every day, and sometimes that requires me to really exert mental discipline over my thoughts.

Close your day out with a non-negotiable ritual — The end of the day is just as important as the beginning, and I find that an evening ritual — even small or short, can help center thoughts, prepare mind and body for restful sleep, and release the day. For me, this includes 15 minutes of meditation in a space specifically for this purpose. Sensory experiences are very tied to my mindfulness, so I also have calming a lavender nebulizer, and a cup of decaffeinated black tea with vanilla soymilk. This isn’t a big time commitment, but it forces me to slow down, focus exclusively on my own mental refresh, and ensures I am in position to sleep. In times of extreme stress, I also write down anything that bothers me as a ritual way of giving myself permission to release it, so I don’t think about it while I sleep. Guarding restful sleep is so important.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Small gestures matter. I believe that there is a lot of power in the small gesture, and those are not practiced enough today. Handwritten notes, encouraging texts, bringing someone a favorite beverage, offering to do something for the person (like pick up dry-cleaning or watching kids for an hour) all signal that you are thinking of them in a concrete way, you care, and they are not alone. Anxiety can be very isolating, so this is a great way to gently support connection.

Offering to sit together — whether in person or virtually — and be a sounding board. This is a great time to listen and support- just resist the urge to tell someone what to do. Phrases like, “have you thought about…?” or “help me understand…?” can be important. Sometimes, just sharing a laugh or a shared memory can be therapeutic. From a mindfulness perspective, this is an opportunity to practice being fully present with the person and focus on what serves them best in the moment.

Bring your own positive point of view and provide context for how you see your own life or challenges. This is an opportunity to share small ways that you are bringing positivity into your life in the face of a personal challenge. Resist the urge to draw comparisons or give advice based on your experience unless it is actively sought. Tell a great story that can create a connection and provide the context in a positive way. If you are personally in a negative headspace, don’t bring that with you and facilitate a “misery loves company” mentality. Your personal mindfulness practice should include how you want to show up for others and what you want to project into the world.

Offer a ritual suggestion or option — Ritual and pattern are powerful ways to create mindfulness by bringing intention to life through these choices. Sleep machines, lavender aromatherapy, favorite books, a great meditation app, a meaningful podcast series, can all be suggestions that can give respite from anxiety and help establish a meaningful daily habit focused on the individual.

Get active together — Exercise has long been revered for the ability to produce endorphins that help ease feelings of anxiety. I personally find that strenuous exercise every day is very meaningful to maintaining my personal positive outlook. If I am running, I use this time to reflect, uninterrupted, on what I want to change in my life, what feelings I want to invite into my mind, and how I want to manifest my intentions in my life. For someone else, it might be as simple as taking the time for a walk with friend (even at a 6ft social distance).

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

Surround yourself with specific items that bring you joy and a sense of structure — There is a reason that Marie Kondo has become such a phenomenon with her decluttering and organizing principles. Like her, I believe that what you allow to share your environment should bring you joy, peace, and usefulness or it has no place in your space. Studies have shown the positive impact of a clean, clear, organized space on the human brain. The more you can bring intentionality into all aspects of your life, the easier it becomes to support mindfulness. Outer order contributes to inner calm and focus.

Think about what you put in your body and how that feeds your being — 5 years ago, I decided to take a hard look at my own eating habits. This journey was transformative for my body and my mind. I create an environment where I am mindful about what I put into my body, and I subscribe to the principle of food as medicine and fuel, not strictly for pleasure, eating from boredom, or convenience. My mindfulness with what I put into my body reminds me at each meal that I control my own nutrition, my own balance, and that my nourishment drives my performance in my life. Of course, each of us will find the best eating style, but I encourage everyone to be intentional about what you eat — in whatever way makes sense for you. This is another way to promote and engage in mindful behavior that can support more mindful practices in other areas as well.

Meditate — My own mindfulness practices includes meditation, and I enjoy many of the mediation apps that are readily available like Calm and Headspace. The benefits of meditation have 1000s of years of support around health benefits, but I simply like the way I feel after I complete a guided meditation. My mind is clearer, my heart rate is slower, and I feel refreshed.

Find Release — I am a firm believer that everyone needs a mechanism of release every day to be able to stay balanced and present. I recommend finding an activity that you enjoy- -and one that is just, exclusively for you. For me this is exercise, and I guard that time relentlessly. I might not get to the grocery store, or pick up my dry cleaning, and I might be down to one pair of clean socks, but I will squeeze in a workout because it’s my only dedicated personal time all day. I can’t be present, thoughtful, balanced, and focused if I don’t focus on my own self-care as a critical priority.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.”- Gautama Buddha. When I was a younger woman, my mind would run freely through all kinds of emotions and what-if scenarios that hijacked my energy and defocused my priorities. I would allow my reactions to others and fear or anxiety around outcomes to influence my decisions. When I made the conscious decision to become mindful about what thoughts, ideas, and feelings occupied my mind and energy, it changed my entire outlook. I had more productive time, more successful outcomes, and more energy for people and the pursuits that bring me the most joy.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve been passionate about prison reform for non-violent offenders for a long time. In my experience, it’s a cause that most people don’t stop and think about very often. The impact of our policies, lack of re-entry programs, and support for non-recidivism are far reaching for families, taxpayers, and society. I wish for more focus on end-to-end solutions starting with conviction policies and mandatory sentencing, then through to how we support re-entry into society. If you are a non-violent felon coming out of prison, your job opportunities, your interpersonal skills, and your housing and personal care environment can be huge impediments to getting back on your feet. The stigma and the lack of opportunity is staggering and can create a vicious cycle that indirectly impacts all of us. One company that I admire in this space is https://cornbreadhustle.com/. Cherie Garcia has done a great job of providing opportunities and making meaningful connections possible.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/antonia-hock/

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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