Oct 28, 2020

Spend Quality Time Inside Your Mind To Turbocharge Your Leadership

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Getty

Week 7 of a 10-Week Plan to Connect with Your Center of Wellbeing: The Lookout is a master at introspection

Even in normal times, dozens of tasks and distractions compete for our attention. Catch up on the news? Edit a work document? Conquer the email inbox? Cook dinner?

The outbreak of Covid-19 escalated the pressure to monitor the world around us. News yells for our attention as does sliding business revenue, communication with employees and the battle over screen time. We’re hyper vigilant as we scan for mask wearing, kids coughing and social distancing.

For all this watchfulness, we’re often blind to scenes that merit our attention: the action inside our own minds.

Meet Your Inner Board of Directors

Over the past few weeks, these columns have acquainted you with The Big Four — the inspirational Dreamer, the logical Thinker, the relational Lover and the practical Warrior — that reside inside of us.

The Big Four are the leadership team inside our heads. Like a member of any business team, each speaks in its own style and advocates for its particular advantage. Sometimes they collaborate. Sometimes they argue.

In the professional world, a Board of Directors oversees leadership, ever watchful for smart strategy, regulatory compliance and of course results. In our inner world, our Big Four team delivers its highest performance when it, too, is supervised by a board.

I call these inner board members “The Transformers” — The Lookout, The Captain and The Voyager. The Transformers act as oversight for your Big Four. They stand apart from them, observing and guiding how they operate.

Learning to use this inner board turbocharges your leadership, whether you’re running a household or a Fortune 500 company.

The Transformers take us off autopilot and jolt us from our routine. Without them, we see what we expect to see, think what we expect to think, feel what we expect to feel, and do what we always do.

Tapping into our Transformers is a direct route to our center of wellbeing and our deeper wisdom.

To understand how we process information, think and react, we turn first to The Lookout. This Transformer observes our internal experience in real time.  The Lookout alerts you to trouble like a lighthouse on a rocky shoal, giving you the time you need to adjust course before catastrophe. The Lookout is a master at introspection.

Deploy Your Lookout

The Lookout’s voice is a different kind of inner speech from the Big Four. It doesn’t have its own agenda. It practices mindfulness, watching our thoughts and emotions without acting on them.

Internationally renowned psychiatrist and researcher Dr. Daniel Siegel coined the term “mindsight” to describe the perspective of what I call the Lookout. Mindsight, he explains in his book, is “a focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds.” From his extensive brain research, he identified this ability as a key variable in skillful behavior, as well as for our wellbeing.

In times of stress, we are most likely to default into harmful habits and least likely to notice it. After a bad day we might yell at our kids or snap at a colleague for no good reason. When our stress dissipates, we wish we could take it back.

We react to things big and small because we’re human. Reacting isn’t the problem. It’s not noticing the reactions when we’re having them.

We call on our Lookout to pull us back to our center.

An executive I work with — I’ll call him Paul — is a down-to-earth leader at a top-notch company. He consistently gets results while maintaining high trust relationships. He’s a model of inner balance.

Then Covid-19 struck. He is working tirelessly with his stakeholders to respond to the crisis, yet the virus marches on unabated. His business took a hit. Some employees got sick. Paul feels overwhelmed.

His colleagues and family see he is emotionally and physically exhausted, that his unflappable spirit has contracted. He is irritable, defensive, sad.

Paul doesn’t see it. He doesn’t recognize that dramatic changes to his internal world have left him off-kilter and disconnected from a powerful center of wellbeing that had served him so well in the past. He can’t hear the voice of his Lookout telling him he’s melting down.

Like Paul, most of us fail to notice what’s going on inside of ourselves. This is a costly oversight. There’s a straight line from the inner life of a leader to the actions they take, the relationships they build, and the impact they create.

We all have thoughts and fears, hopes and regrets, ambitions and doubts. Most days, we don’t notice them, yet they influence everything we say and do.

Drawing on our Lookout changes all that. We can avoid destructive behavior if we develop our Lookout to shine its searchlight on our reactive impulses before we act on them.

I’m working with Paul to develop his Lookout before he damages his reputation or even his business. Paying attention to the inner workings of his mind is a new experience. As he gains this insight, he’ll stop burning things down even if he’s boiling inside. And that will be transformational.

Next week: We explore the inner Captain.

Read more here:

Week 1: How To Connect With Your Center Of Wellbeing

Week 2: Close Your Inner “Performance Gap” To Tap Your Most Powerful Self

Week 3: Leverage Your Inner C-Suite: How To Bring Your “Big Four” To The Negotiating Table

Week 4: How To Draw On The Energy Of Your Big Four

Week 5: How to Tap Your Inner Superpowers in a World Gone Mad

Week 6: Don’t Overthink It: How To Allow Your Full Inner Genius To Speak

 

Published on Forbes.com October 28, 2020