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The paradox of being a mindful leader coach

Good thing that there is always a silver lining

My brow is furrowed and my eyes contract. I look straight ahead into the open space in the room.  I shake my head slightly from side to side. My jaw feels tight as my teeth are clenched. I notice that I am holding my breath.  Ever have that feeling at the end of  a conversation where you end up saying to yourself “What in the world just happened?”

I had a moment like this on a phone call recently.  I am talking. The other person is talking. Suddenly, there is a palpable tension.  You know there is no resolution in that moment. Awkward feelings.  Getting annoyed. I apologized. The call ends.

After that call, I am quite sure I went through the five stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining,  depression, acceptance.  Obviously it didn’t last for days or months or years…but it happened.

Denial “What in the world happened?  That didn’t just happen”

Anger “This is ridiculous. How could I have let that happen?”

Bargaining “If only I had not wanted to know more”

Depression “Crap, what’s going to happen now.  Did I ruin everything?”

Acceptance “This situation is truly a gift; a gift  of learning, wisdom, and choice”

The paradox is that I, the mindfulness instructor, during some moment on the phone call was unable to practice mindfulness as Jon Kabat-Zinn defines “pay attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”.  

As a mindful leadership coach and business owner,  I have a higher expectation of myself to practice what I preach.  Understandably, right?  The other paradox then was the realization for me was that I was actually practicing what I preached.  I was present to the fact that I had created a less-than-positive experience for a person. I was actually present enough to apologize and really mean it. I was very aware of how this affected my energy after the fact; it dragged it down temporarily. Over the next several hours, I practiced empathy and compassion–both to myself and to the other.  I was not in a hurry to solve anything which is the normal tendency and maybe even expectation. 

These are the practices that led me to six leadership lessons that may help you the next time you find yourself in a similar predicament: 

  1.  Feel free to vent to someone but don’t justify your behavior to yourself or to anyone else; making yourself feel better isn’t the goal of leadership.
  2. Wallow if you want, but identify the learning, bounce back and move on; it does not serve a purpose to operate from the place of loss, blame, etc.
  3. Take ownership of your own behavior; in other words, even if you don’t understand what happened, always accept that you played a part in the outcome. 
  4. Don’t be in a hurry to solve anything (unless maybe it’s a life or death situation);  take your time to figure out the right next step for you and then act with boldness and compassion.  
  5. Know that feeling gratitude for a situation like this indicates you are growing–and those you serve, need you to continually evolve.
  6. Stay grounded in your own personal power and release the need for a particular outcome; you always have the choice to do the right thing.

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~Dalai Lama

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