Sonia Úbeda – Embrace and Lead

Learning to be a Conscious Leader

The way we’ve been working until now doesn’t work anymore.

A study conducted by Harvard Business Review of 19,900 professionals around the world, published in 2014, yields the following data:

  • 72% of those interviewed cannot think strategically or creatively at work.
  • 68% cannot focus on a single task at the same time
  • 55% do not find any meaning or purpose in their work.

This shows that indeed something is wrong with the way we have been working for a long time.

Everything has changed, and we’re not going back. What’s more,  the speed of the changes and the uncertainty in which we live is going to accentuate. And it’s good that we start to  become aware of it, the sooner the better. We must begin to change the chip to learn new ways of being, living and working in a sustainable way, if we want to carry out our professional projects and our successful organizations.

And being successful means paying close attention to how we are operating, how we are working, how many hours we are spending in the office or traveling, how we manage our energy level without giving ourselves the opportunity to deeply renew ourselves, what quality the work we do has , and above all WHAT VALUE are we contributing to our company and our teams.

Meeting Objectives in the company   versus  live the Process from Calm, Focus and Contribution

To achieve goals, it is first necessary to recognize where we are (A) and where we want to get to (B). And to get to point B we have to  study the strategies, make plans,  have the necessary resources, etc…

So far so good.

But we forget something very important: what we leave behind…and many times what we leave behind is our own health and that of our people.

That’s when we need to STOP, GET PERSPECTIVE,  and pay more attention to the HOWs. See the cost to us in the short,  medium and long term of not taking care of the process, not paying attention  to the pressure we put on our body and mind, underestimating the state of stress and pressure we endure every day. Becoming aware of this, that we cannot leave our skin on the road, because it is simply not sustainable, IS IMPORTANT.

Let’s get started  for recognizing the reality in which we find ourselves at work: we have pressure to achieve results,  we have fewer resources than before to reach them, we do more hours of work with the same or less pay,  decisions are often made  from fear, little consideration is given to our work, there are few people  who really inspire us with their behavior to be the best version of ourselves….

Sometimes we feel lost, we go like headless chickens.  We continually strive to do more, get more recognition, and reinforce our identity in the work environment…And so we only create for ourselves even more problems and more added pressure.

And this is where the practice of  Mindfulness comes in:

The practice of Mindfulness in work environments has as its fundamental mission  the awakening  the  natural abilities that you already have to manage and lead your life in a conscious way, consistent with yourself, and from a state of Presence and Consciousness, that is, from the  Being, and not only  from Doing.

As mentioned by the great spiritual leader of our times, and Zen master  Thich Nhat Hanh:  “With mindfulness at work, the value of what you do grows exponentially and is received that way.” It fascinates me  the meaning and how these words transcend.

The daily practice itself will bring us many benefits and will TRANSFORM us towards the leader that each one of us carries within, that CONSCIOUS LEADER, with capital letters.

This practice is the most basic of the Meditation practices and consists of “Paying attention in a concrete way to the experience of the moment, voluntarily, in the present moment and without prejudice”.  This is how it is defined J.Kabat Zin.

It is learning to train the mind with specific techniques through which we train Attention, said in a summarized and clear way. This idea is simple, but not easy to carry out.

Here I explain some of the consequences that the practice entails:

MENTAL SPACE: By calming the mind  With practice,  the chaotic activity of everyday thoughts dissolves, giving our minds more room to perform other more complex tasks, such as thinking strategically and creatively.

Working with mental space is working from CALM.

It is common, within the training plans for managers and middle managers,  make a getaway once a year, to disconnect a few days outside  of the daily environment and to be able to have “space” to think.  This is great, but if we integrated the practice into our daily lives, we would gain mental space without having to go anywhere. It would be like allowing our mind to enjoy 15-20 minutes of that state of mind.  Obviously, the ideal is to escape  those Retreat days, with the intention of having physical and mental space, integrating the practice of  Mindfulness in the agenda.

CLARITY:  As we begin to develop this mental space with daily practice, we begin to see clearly.  In fact, this is the ultimate goal of the practice of Mindfulness: Calm the mind to see clearly. In our day to day, this translates into having more clarity on the issues to make more accurate decisions, and also to get in touch with our own needs, in a natural way. We start to become aware of what works and what doesn’t work in our life, the direction I should or shouldn’t take, if what I really want is promotion or more time to dedicate to myself and my family.

FOCUS: developing space and mental clarity through attention training, our mind naturally tends to focus easily and effortlessly, ignoring  irrelevant distractions. The mind is  Truly focus on what matters. We are much more capable of prioritizing our agenda, smoothly and without internal personal conflicts. The mind is in a state of deep focus through which you flow into the task at hand. You have laser-like precision when tackling any task, whether it’s writing a report, or preparing a presentation, or negotiating with your supplier or client. This state of focus allows you to be highly productive, notably increasing the quantity and quality of the actions you carry out.

ELEGANCE: this quality is also important. We do not rush to solve things, but we sense the perfect moment and the right way to solve the issues, to address someone, or to approach a delicate conversation. A natural elegance is displayed in doing, which comes from being, from developing the quality of Presence which I explain below.

INTELLIGENCE: understood here as mental acuity  at the intellectual level.  Our cognitive abilities are sharpened and displayed, so that we can work on projects and complex tasks, having a broad vision of the picture, but being able to observe clearly at the same time each brushstroke. So you can tackle the job with more diligence, insight and precision.

HUMANITY:  with practice, we come into contact with something deeper, with a sense of belonging  to something bigger than us. This makes us feel connected with others and with life on a very human vital and essential level.  In this way we listen  to our colleagues from this space, and the immediate reaction to prosecute someone, dissolves.   We connect with the truly human part, developing empathy and compassion with our colleagues, bosses or team.

KINDNESS: Nowadays I hear many events that happen to my friends and they tell me about the lack of respect and lack of consideration that are often experienced in certain companies. Raise your voice on many occasions, demand more than is reasonable,  have unethical behavior… all this is a reality, we cannot close our eyes and look elsewhere.

As with practice we begin to calm the mind, to see clearly, to stop judging the other, we also begin  to be kind.

I don’t know of any conscientious leader who isn’t kind. In my early twenties, I was fortunate to work with 2 people, Mike Humby and Dorine Van Iersel, great leaders of large companies, who have been a benchmark in my professional life. Tremendously human, kind and respectful people, with an amazing ability to be present.

Great leaders are kind because they are human, regardless of their position in the hierarchy of a company or in society.  Kindness is based on love for oneself and others. In seeing us all as equals, as people that we are.  That is, when we see the  Financial Director, let’s see the person who has suffered and suffers. When we see the CEO, let’s see the person who has suffered and is suffering.  When we see the people who work in the warehouse, let’s see the people who have suffered and who suffer.  One of the intrinsic characteristics of the human being is suffering, that is why we all have to see each other as equals.

With practice we develop this way of seeing the other, this more human way,  regardless of our position in the company or the salary we earn. We speak here of a kindness that comes from the heart.

Be careful not to confuse the kindness of the other, with labeling him as weak. We are not talking about kindness to be recognized or accepted, or to please the other. Being kind comes with a degree of exposing your vulnerability and being open to not being understood that way by others. But if you’re smart, you’ll appreciate people who are kind from the heart.

PRESENCE: It is the ultimate state of the conscious leader. Developing this quality little by little with practice, we will see that we will be able to be Present in the moment,  in a very revealing state of equanimity, in which we are able to think clearly  and manage each moment whatever arises.

Developing this state of presence is in itself the best  GIFT, with capital letters,  that we can do to ourselves, to all the people we work with, and on our personal level, to  our family and friends. This capacity for presence is by itself  itself is inspiring for all those around us.

INSPIRATION: the state of centeredness and clarity that we have described, accepting our humanity and that of others, being kind to all people, the  being present, being creative, connecting with something bigger than ourselves and understanding that this is what really makes us better… all of this INSPIRE.

And also, with practice, by connecting with these aspects of the deepest being, little by little we come into contact with our true Being, our most authentic and inspiring facet, becoming aware of our true values, to see the value that we can contribute to others from our work, helping them to  develop personally and professionally to be the best version of themselves. With your attitude and behavior, you unwittingly influence others, inspiring them to be just like you.

The practice makes you unfold your consciousness towards higher ends, wanting to build bridges, harmonize, connect, explore, create, improve, promote and lead not only from the intellect, but also from the heart, making others bring out what best of themselves.

The process is clear, it begins with oneself, and extends to the rest, like a stone thrown into a pool of calm and crystalline waters.

Let’s be that stone and embrace the responsibility of Consciously Leading our lives, professional projects and companies.


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