Frank Striefler of agency DW+H shares key ideas for how to be an effective boss.
Image and credits: Glad.Is.
Each year when USA Today or Newsweek posts an article about “The 10 Most Stressful Jobs Today,” ‘Account Executive’ or ‘Creative Director’ at an advertising agency is sure to appear at the top of the list. As with many jobs in creative fields, the demands are high and the days are long in these positions. Egos run wild in ad agencies, and sometimes it seems the worst behaved people are the ones getting promoted.
While the popular TV series ‘Mad Men’ is cast and set in the ‘50’s, there is still much truth in the script – agencies do often create a culture where there is a general disregard for co-workers. Backstabbing and excessive self-promotion are often the primary road to career advancement.
However, ad agencies are paid to have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in society, and most employees fit the hipster/trendsetter stereotype perfectly – so it’s no surprise that with a shift in consciousness happening in the mainstream, there is also (finally) a shift occurring within the ad agencies themselves. We were intrigued to see this article from DW +H’s Director of Strategy, and view it as another encouraging sign that the business world is undergoing a transformation.
9 Mindful Leadership Tips
By Frank Striefler
I can’t claim to be a master at practicing Mindful Leadership – I’m an early student who is impressed by the initial results in my business and personal life. It’s an amazing gift to become more self-aware, and I’d like to share this awareness with anybody who is interested. I’ve made it public that my New Year’s resolution is to practice more Mindful Leadership in 2013, and I hope you’ll feel inspired to join me and perhaps inspire your co-workers as well.
I first encountered the idea of Mindful Leadership at a workshop at Esalen Institute lead by Ronald Alexander. It was a life-changing weekend, and it made me commit to making it an annual tradition to attend a workshop for personal growth. I would highly recommend dropping everything and attending a similar retreat (Glad.is can recommend some great ones) to help you dive in.
For the Christmas/New Years holiday break, I picked up the book “Mindful Leadership” by Maria Gonzalez and it really drove home many of the points I learned in my retreat weekend. Maria outlines 9 practices for being a Mindful Leader, which I’ll share with you. And I believe anyone in any job or position can benefit from exploring these 9 skills. After all, we are all leaders – regardless of our seniority, age or social status.
1. BE PRESENT
Being present is the biggest present you can give and the starting point of being a mindful leader. Pair intention with attention. Be in the moment regardless of circumstance vs. wasting energy and time regretting the past or fretting the future.
Most people are unable to give complete attention to what’s happening right now. Inattention can mean you miss hearing what was said or seeing if someone is uncommitted. Being in the present moment allows you to truly hear what someone says rather than what you wish they had said or what you fear they have said.
Slow down. Wait in order to hear, hear in order to listen, listen in order to speak.
Look and see with open eyes. Scan and study the verbal and non-verbal conversation. Observe how others are taking in what you’re saying and see if you have buy-in or doubters. Listen with the “third ear” to the words, intonation and conviction. Watch for the body language of the speaker and audience. By combining both sound and sight, you will not only pick up the content of what is being communicated but you will be able to pick up what is not said, too.
2. BE AWARE
Being aware starts with being self-aware and receptive. Is about being aware of your arising thoughts and feelings and not being blindsided or hijacked by your emotions or negative patterns. Don’t suppress what you are experiencing. Don’t interfere, just notice. Awareness enables you to maintain sound judgment and make better decisions.
It also means that you’re aware of how you affect others. Constantly observe how your words, actions, demeanor and energy impact those around you. Be receptive and listen for possibilities without judgment. It means you’re aware of the constant feedback loop in the world and the interconnectedness of all things. Leaders who are aware are coachable. They don’t let their ego get in the way of their personal growth. They acknowledge that they don’t know everything.
3. BE CALM
Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to have a conversation with someone who is relaxed? While people appear to have a greater tendency toward calmness, the good news is that calmness and relaxation are completely learnable. A leader that remains calm under any circumstance is invaluable. When you are less impulsive you’re more likely to respond appropriately vs. being reactive. It allows you to keep control of any situation, which assures others that a difficult task is manageable. This allows employees to face challenges from the perspective of problem solving rather than causing them to panic.
4. BE FOCUSED
When you’re focused, you concentrate on what you know is a priority. It’s about keeping distractions in the background while focusing on the task at hand. It means you can be in a meeting from beginning to end without your mind wandering. To give your undivided attention, give attention to only one task at a time. Studies show that people spend up to 50% of their time not thinking about the task at hand. Adding the fact that the average worker gets interrupted every 11 minutes and considering that it takes him/her about 25 minutes to get back to the original task, shows how important being able to focus is for our productivity.
Multitasking is the greatest barrier to our ability to focus and the most overrated skill in our culture — It’s a bad excuse for our inability to concentrate. It’s so ingrained in our culture that we admire multitasking when we ought to be demonizing it for killing efficiency & effectiveness.