Practising mindful engagement as a leadership development tool

Mindful engagement

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A few months ago, I caught up with a client so she could brief me on an upcoming program she wanted me to run for a group of relatively new leaders in her business. 

Davina had a rough idea of what she wanted to me to cover, but the one thing she was insistent on, was that the workshop would be called Discovering the Leader Within You. I was happy with this theme and felt confident that I could put together an interactive program for her team. 

As I talked her through the modules that I thought would be most appropriate, she stopped me and said, “When you cover off Emotional Intelligence (which is something they definitely all need to know more about), please make sure you include ‘mindful engagement’”. 

Whilst Emotional Intelligence is certainly a common module for me to run particularly in first-time leader workshops, I was surprised at Davina’s request to include mindful engagement in her program, as it’s not something I would typically cover off with new leaders. I tend to introduce it in my coaching work with senior leaders as I find it to be a framework that resonates more with those who have been in a leadership role for quite some time. 

Of course, I agreed to incorporate it into the workshop for Davina’s team, as long as I could keep the content at a fairly high level that her new leaders would not only be able to grasp but would also be able to introduce into their regular leadership practices. 

I ran the workshop last week and it was interesting to see the response from a group of newer leaders to the concept of mindful engagement, which is why I thought it would be appropriate to share some of what I discussed in this piece. 

At a high (and somewhat philosophical) level, mindful engagement refers to a process for how individual leaders can approach their experiences, go through their experiences, and reflect on their experiences in ways that enhance their actual lessons gained through these experiences.  

You can see this outlined more visually below. 

As I had expected, at first a few of the participants confused mindful engagement with mindfulness

Mindfulness and mindful engagement are not the same thing. 

Whilst engaging in mindfulness can lead to a wide range of benefits including reduced stress and enhanced well-being and is often practised through meditation, deep breathing, or yoga, in a leadership context mindful engagement refers to one’s ability to be fully present and attentive to their own thoughts and feelings, as well as those of their team members, in the present moment. This means being fully engaged and deeply listening to others, without getting distracted by other thoughts or concerns. 

Mindful engagement in leadership can help leaders develop a greater level of self-awareness and empathy, which are essential qualities for building and maintaining strong relationships with team members – and was why Davina had specifically requested that I incorporate this content during the session on EQ. 

Mindful engagement can also lead to more effective communication and better decision making which are important skills for any leader. 

Over the course several one-on-one executive coaching sessions, it’s possible to unpack the many layers that sit under the three primary components (or ‘activities’) comprising mindful engagement. However, during a one-hour session in a group workshop, as I mentioned above, I intentionally kept it high level. 

Phase 1: Approach – committing to a growth mindset 

One thing every leader must deal with today is change. With the amount of uncertainty and complexity out there, and the increasing levels of anxiety within teams, leaders need to approach every day (no matter how challenging) with a growth mindset and embrace the fact that everyone is operating outside their comfort zone. 

A growth or learning mindset allows leaders to embrace new challenges and opportunities rather than feeling threatened or overwhelmed by them. By focusing on experiences with a growth mindset or a learning orientation as opposed to a focus on proving competence or avoiding failure, leaders can stay ahead of the curve and foster a culture of innovation and experimentation within their teams. 

Phase 2: Action – seeking feedback 

Sure, as a team member you may have been able to get away with being afraid of change or difficult work situations. However, as a new leader, you will ideally be ambitious and more interested in developing yourself (and others) than in worrying about what others might think of you.  

You will realise that it’s OK to be vulnerable in front of your team members. You will recognise failure as an opportunity to learn (linking back to phase 1 – committing to a growth mindset). You will embrace new challenges and welcome feedback from those around you.  

Please don’t protect your ego and avoid feedback altogether. 

Leaders who regularly seek feedback (particularly on how their leadership is impacting those around them), not only receive more genuine feedback but also gain a more accurate view of how their leadership style is perceived by others. 

Phase 3: Reflection – thinking back to past experiences to plan for the future 

Whether you lead a small team, a larger team, or an entire organisation, self-reflection is crucial for improving your leadership mindset, for appreciating the impact you are having on those around you, and for planning the next phase of your journey.  

Reflecting on your leadership journey or even on a specific leadership experience is important because it helps you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Regular self-assessment allows you to recognise patterns, learn from past experiences, and adapt your leadership style.  

By reflecting on your journey, you can make more informed decisions, enhance your personal growth, and become a more effective leader. 

When you reflect on a particular experience, ask yourself exactly what happened, how you reacted and how you felt; evaluate what was good and what was bad; analyse and really make sense of the situation; articulate what you specifically learned from the experience; and decide what you’re going to do differently moving forward based on your learnings. 

Leaders who practise mindful engagement (those who approach, act, and reflect), are typically more self-aware and tend to react less impulsively to challenging situations. They are also far more comfortable holding themselves accountable for their actions and decisions, and above all, they are fully present and engaged in their interactions with others. 

Remember hellomonday provides coaching and support to every leader, prioritising development initiatives that result in long-term sustained learning and change, reinforcing habits through curated learning and impactful coaching, often helping leaders embrace mindful engagement as a key leadership development tool. 

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