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Time to Think: The Importance of Introspection in Leadership

I have the privilege to work with leaders from diverse sectors including government, medicine, nonprofits, and the arts. Something that constantly comes up during coaching leaders is their near constant fire-fighting and focus on the day-to-day. Like the movie, Groundhog Day, it seems like the same things happen over and over again. The clients I coach want to break the cycle of crisis and reactivity, but seem unable to. Yet they know they are capable of leading differently.

When leaders lead by crisis management, often a root cause is a lack of introspection–an absence of personal and strategic think time. This includes time to think about the future, time to plan, and time to consider what is most important. One way executives can explore this phenomenon is by reviewing their calendar. When do they think? Do they have time, their most precious commodity, blocked on their calendar for introspection?

The classic definition of introspection is a reflective looking inward, an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings. A leader needs introspection time for looking inward–to consider who they are, what they value, what motivates them–to build their self-awareness. I work with leaders who know the value of this self-reflection; they show up focused and clear. I also work with leaders who lack this habit of personal introspection. These leaders tend to show up frustrated and unfocused.

Looking inward is critical for self-knowledge and building one’s self-awareness. And as we know through Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence, our most effective leaders are highly self-aware. Self-awareness is the gateway to self-management and relationship building–important competencies for effective leaders.

Introspection or examination of personal values, meaning, and purpose creates clarity. It enables leaders to focus on long-term success, not simply fire-fighting. There is power in envisioning and planning for a future. If you don’t take the time, either during your totally packed week or during your precious weekend time, you miss an important leadership duty–“the lifting of a person’s vision to higher sights, raising a person’s performance to a higher standard” (Peter Drucker).

Journaling is a simple practice leaders can adopt to strengthen introspection and self awareness. There is great power writing. Not only does it bring inner clarity, the act of writing increases our ability to achieve. The physical act of writing stimulates the base of the brain, a group of cells called the reticular activating system (RAS). In Write It Down, Make It Happen, author Henriette Anne Klauser says that, “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’ Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to the signs and signals that […] were there all along.” And we know writing down our goals helps in goal attainment. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, studies goal setting and found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals simply by writing them down.

Leaders need to schedule time to be introspective and increase their self-awareness. And the simple practice of writing down their insights, intentions, and goals helps them become a more intentional leader who gets the best out of themselves, their people, and their organizations.

Are you interested in leading Emotional Intelligence transformations? Apply today for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification. Whether you’re an established coach or new to the field, this intensive program offers the tools and first hand experience you need to coach for transformational growth.

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Develop Emotional Intelligence with Mindfulness

build emotional intelligence

develop emotional intelligence

Develop Emotional Intelligence with Mindfulness Practices

Leaders, trainers and executive coaches can develop emotional intelligence in themselves and others with mindfulness practices. Dawa Tarchin Phillips describes how in this video clip.

Develop Emotional Intelligence: Start with Self-Management

Mindfulness as a tool for self-management is a topic Phillips explores in his article, “Take the Lead in Reducing Workplace Stress.” He suggests five steps for using mindfulness to manage yourself when you’re under stress.

Notice your reaction to a specific “trigger” situation

What caused that rush of adrenaline or stress? What conditions led to that moment? Recognizing the triggers of stress can help you prepare to deal with them more effectively the next time they arise.

First become aware, then manage

Pay attention to how you feel physically and emotionally when you are in a stressful situation. The first step to managing your self is to be aware of yourself and your reactions.

Stay in the moment

Pay attention to whatever is happening in the moment rather than rehashing stressful situations from the past. If the moment presents a problem, focus on finding creative solutions to that problem.

Learn to meditate

Meditation helps calm the mind and increases the ability to focus. It also helps you be able to move between mental tasks more deliberately and with greater ease.

Breathe

Taking a few deep breaths during a stressful situation will bring oxygen to your brain and clarify your thinking. Try this: Breathe in and count one…then breathe out and count one. Breathe in and count two…then breathe out and count two. Breathe in and count three…then breathe out. Repeat. If you can, place your hands on your abdomen or chest to feel the rise and settling of each breath.

Develop Emotional Intelligence with Mindfulness

Gain insight into ways you can develop emotional intelligence in your organization through self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management. Dawa Tarchin Phillips will discuss each of these areas further in his upcoming webcast series, Mindful Leadership Breakthrough System.

The live webcast series is developed and hosted by Phillips, a mindful leadership expert, author, coach and classically trained senior meditation teacher. His business acumen and deep understanding of meditation techniques and mind training allow him to deliver a unique coaching program to address challenges facing 21st century leaders. Each webcast includes a Q&A with Phillips.

Develop emotional intelligence through mindfulness with these live webcasts:

Dealing with Workplace Stress: How it Impacts Performance, Culture and the Bottom Line

The Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence Connection

Patience in Business: How to Overcome Doubts, Worry and Negativity

Beyond Habit: How to Change Habits that Limit Leaders

Managing Change: First, Understand and Manage Yourself

Dealing with Failure and Setbacks Mindfully: How to Move Through Struggles like a True Champion

Mindful Decision Making Under Pressure: Using the Power of Presence to Achieve Success from the Inside Out