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overworked and overwhelmedMany leaders today are chronically overworked and overwhelmed by the seemingly non-stop demands on their time and attention. If you feel like you’re constantly outrunning burnout, resentment, and collapse, chances are you aren’t performing up to your potential as a leader. Hard work tends to go hand-in-hand with success, but over the long term, that missed potential could translate to missed career opportunities and burnout. Plus, if you’re always scrambling to get things done, you may be missing the big-picture perspective.

The alternative is to lead differently – mindfully – for greater clarity about the results that most merit a leader’s time and attention and how to show up with the presence that leads to your highest and best contributions as a leader and as a person.

Jesse and guest Scott Eblin discuss four simple but powerful “killer apps” that leaders can use right away to reclaim your life – and drive big changes in productivity for you and your team.

Scott Eblin is the author of two books: his first was The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, and his new book is Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. Scott is on the faculty at Georgetown University, he’s a former Fortune 500 executive, and he’s the co-founder and president of The Eblin Group, a professional development and executive coaching firm.

Jesse and Scott talk about:

  • How to consistently show up at your best
  • Four simple, powerful, and immediately applicable “killer apps”: mindfulness routines that will help you reduce stress, sustain peak performance, and strengthen leadership presence
  • Inspiring examples of mindfulness in action from leaders ranging from a U.S. Coast Guard Commandant to the CEO of Hilton Worldwide
  • Simple, practical, and immediately applicable ways to strengthen mindful leadership presence in the four key domains of life: physical, mental, relational, and spiritual
  • Greater clarity about the highest and best uses of your time and attention to get the results that matter most
  • A personal roadmap for the practices and routines that lead to results that matter most

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How Mindful Leaders Get Results

by Jesse Lahey on October 13, 2014

How Mindful Leaders Get Results | Photo courtesy of depositphotos.com/24148987This is a guest post by Scott Eblin, author of the new book Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, which releases today. Scott shared a draft of the book with me; I loved it, eagerly read it from cover to cover, and enthusiastically recommend it to you. 

One of the things I know for sure about leadership is that leaders control the weather. If you’ve ever worked in a setting where the first question everyone asks each other in the morning is “What kind of mood is he (or she) in today?” then you know the truth of that statement.

The answer to that first-thing-in-the-morning question determines the kind of day everyone has ahead of them and, consequently, the quality of the work that gets done. If the leader is sunny and bright, then it’s going to be a good day; if the leader is stormy and cloudy, then everyone had better buckle up and prepare for a bumpy ride.

I thought a lot about leaders and the weather as I was writing my new book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. Because of the ever-increasing expectations of the do-more-with-less, 24/7 connectivity environment they’re operating in, more and more leaders feel overworked and overwhelmed. That feeling leads to bumpy weather and, according to my company’s research, comes through in low performance on key leadership behaviors such as:

  • Pacing themselves,
  • Taking time to define or redefine what needs to be done,
  • Giving others their full presence and attention, and
  • Understanding the impact of their comments and actions on their team’s morale and productivity.

With all of the demands on their time and attention, what should leaders do differently? I’m confident that working harder isn’t the answer.

In a 2013 study, the Center for Creative Leadership found that the average smartphone-enabled executive, manager, or professional is connected to their work 72 hours a week. There are only 168 hours in a week, so if the leader is spending 72 of them on work and let’s say eight hours a day (56 hours a week) on sleeping, eating, and bathing, that only leaves 40 hours a week to do everything else they need or want to do. Working harder is only going to exacerbate the chronic state of fight-or-flight that many leaders find themselves in these days.

The alternative for the overworked and overwhelmed leader is to take a more mindful approach to work and life. We hear and read a lot about mindfulness these days, so let me spend a minute talking about what it is and isn’t for the average person. It isn’t spending hours a day meditating like a Buddhist monk. That’s great, of course, but most of us don’t have the time or patience for that.

My working definition of mindfulness is that it’s doing simple things that make us more aware of what’s going on around us and inside us and then being intentional about what we’re going to do – or not do – next.

The good news is that there are some easy-to-do mindful routines that leaders can follow which will definitely make a difference for them and their teams, and in the results they achieve. I share these routines and a plan for following through on them in Overworked and Overwhelmed.

We’ve all heard of the fight-or-flight response, but few of us have heard of the rest-and-digest response. Think of fight-or-flight, which is controlled by your body’s sympathetic nervous system, as the gas pedal that helps you get things done – especially in crisis situations. Think of rest-and-digest, which is controlled by your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, as the brakes which keep you from spinning out of control and ending up in a big, hairy crash. Just like you’d never drive a car only using the gas pedal, you shouldn’t live your life without using the brakes.

The good news is that even a few moments of simple mindfulness routines can activate your rest-and-digest response and get you out of the chronic state of fight-or-flight that creates stormy weather for you and your team. Here are three examples of quick mindfulness routines:

  • Take three deep breaths from your belly
  • Get up from your desk to stretch for a few minutes
  • Take 10 minutes to go for a walk.

Being mindful – aware and intentional – about when you’re overusing the gas pedal, and when you need to apply the brakes, can create a leadership climate that enables you and your team to get great results.

overworked and overwhelmedScott Eblin is the author of two books: his first was The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, and his new book is Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. Scott is on the faculty at Georgetown University, he’s a former Fortune 500 executive, and he’s the co-founder and president of The Eblin Group, a professional development and executive coaching firm. Listen to Jesse’s interview with Scott, “Overworked and Overwhelmed: 4 tools for leaders to reclaim their lives and boost productivity,” once the interview airs this week. 

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Pull Yourself Back from the Brink of Your Caffeine-Driven, Smartphone-Addicted Life

October 8, 2014

This is a guest post by Scott Eblin, author of the new book Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. Scott shared a draft of the book with me; I loved it, eagerly read it from cover to cover, and enthusiastically recommend it to you.  On a summer Sunday night four years ago, I found myself […]

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097: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow | with Mark Miller from Chick-fil-A

October 2, 2014

Are you a leader people want to follow? You can be—but first, you must understand what sets great leaders apart from all the rest. Certainly, leaders need people skills, execution skills, a deep knowledge of industry trends, the ability to articulate a vision, and more. They must be competent—but that’s just the tip of the […]

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GC28: Gamification in Human Resources | with Mario Herger

September 25, 2014

The new book Gamification in Human Resources highlights several dozen examples of how organizations are using gamification throughout the employee life cycle to recruit, develop and evaluate talent – and it gives you the tools necessary to begin or expand your own gamification programs. Mario Herger is the author of several books on gamification, including […]

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096: Bringing the Lean Startup into Your Organization: Leadership in the Age of Uncertainty | with Jeff Dyer

September 15, 2014

Have you or your team ever come up with a big idea that you thought would be very cool, but didn’t take any action because you thought it would be too risky? Perhaps it was an idea for a new product or service, or a process change to solve a complex problem. Maybe you tried […]

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095: 3 Things Leaders Should Learn from Rock-Orchestra Superstars

September 1, 2014

“At first, we didn’t believe him, that this highly accomplished star in our field was interested in not just teaching us but in learning from us,” my wife Erin said. “But then we saw by his actions that he really meant it.” Erin had just returned from her first time attending the annual week-long Mark […]

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WHE14: The 6 Drivers of Behavioral Engagement

August 25, 2014

This episode is the second in a two-part series about leading a health behavioral change. Episode 13 focused on leading a fairly straightforward change, such as influencing employees to get a biometric health screening or to take a financial wellness assessment. Episode 14 addresses leading a more complex change effort, such as influencing employees to […]

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094: Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation | with Greg Brandeau

August 15, 2014

Are you a leader who builds teams that innovate again and again? Creating and sustaining an organization that is consistently innovative is extremely difficult (and rare). Conventional leaders see their role as conjuring up a vision and inspiring others to make it happen. The best leaders of innovation see their role quite differently. Former Pixar […]

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If You Don’t Lead Innovation, You Aren’t a Leader. (And you won’t stay in business very long.)

August 11, 2014

Conventional wisdom says creativity is the realm of advertising, and innovation the job of product development. We wouldn’t expect to find the IT or Finance departments bursting with innovation. But Google could never have grown from a startup in 1998 to the market dominator, with over one million servers, without an IT team that was […]

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Leading Behind the Flock

August 8, 2014

While reading the new book Collective Genius in preparation for my upcoming interview with former Pixar tech wizard Greg Brandeau, I was reminded by this powerful insight: “A leader … is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along […]

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093: The Pure-Hearted Leader: The Surprising Relevance of an Ancient Concept

August 4, 2014

Back in 2000, Jesse was helping an executive at one of the world’s largest companies develop a communication plan. As they were working through the key messages, the executive got tripped up on one of the words Jesse was recommending. He thought the word and even the concept might be dated, old-fashioned. The word was […]

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