Occupy the Present Moment

Below is an extraordinary article written by our own Susanne Deitzel that was featured by the National League of Cities.  Enjoy!

In the two minutes that it will take you to read this article, emails are filling your inbox, your cell phone is likely buzzing with texts and you are quite likely biding time in-between meetings.  If you are anything like me, this is business-as-usual: a dense stream of information constantly tugging for attention, with barely any time to scan it. Again, if you are anything like me, you are most likely scanning this page right now, looking for some phrase in bold print that merits your attention.

Because in truth, many of us are drained for time, and drained of attention. We are increasingly pre-occupied with so many messages, requests and to-do lists that we fail to have the space we need to lead.

To lead we need to fully occupy the present moment, whether that means investing time and energy into a decision, a relationship or a situation. In many instances, our desire is for quality performance – while our behavior contributes to frantic pace we find ourselves in. We often end up reacting rather than responding or initiating.  We reply “yes” or “no” in a split second because we have to get on to the next email, meeting, document – or emailing our spouse that – yes, I will be picking up the boys from baseball practice.

So in the midst of this busy-ness, when do you find time to develop your vision, design a new method, or inspire others to do great work? In other words, how do you then truly lead?

Left to our own devices (and we have a lot of them) we could be staring into screens the majority of our days and forget that we threw our hat into the ring to lead. And forget about using the speed of communications and technology as an excuse. Things are not slowing down – so it is our job as leaders to resist the gravity of speed, and develop the ability to remain centered, connected and effective.

This process involves becoming very aware of where our attention is in each moment, and can feel quite challenging at first. In particular, it involves noticing the following key shifts that cultivate trust and connection:

  1. Substitute interactions for transactions. Resist the impulse to quickly reply to every message electronically. Ask for face-to-face meetings or a phone conversation instead. By exchanging connectivity for connectedness you will learn unexpected ways to serve others and get support for your vision.
  2. Cooperate less – collaborate more. It is quicker to respond yes or no to a question that might take time to completely ‘unpack’. Quick and easy compromises are tempting but can get in the way of creative conversations that hit on new, breakthrough solutions.
  3. Build alignment, not just alliances. Strong links in your network are valuable and important, but don’t miss opportunities to develop new relationships centered in the same vision and values you share. Truly get to know the people around you – the stronger their commitment to a shared goal, the more momentum you will have for your efforts.
  4. Seek restoration, without information. Leaders can only be effective as long as they have the mental, physical and emotional capacity to fulfill their commitment. This means seeking ‘data free zones’ where you are recharging your battery as well as allowing your brain time to absorb and process the information you have already fed it.
  5. When you communicate, relate.  Many of us have access to a universe full of information at the touch of a button – we don’t really need more data. What people often need help with is seeing how what you say connects what matters most to them. Find opportunities to share a part of yourself, your life and what is important to you. Ask questions, and listen to the answers.

These five suggestions are an intentional and effective approach to leading in a data-rich and speed-based culture. If you seek opportunities to experiment with them, you will see that you are creating strong bonds and powerful coalitions for change – the very core of fulfilling and results-oriented leadership.



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