Mindful
  • Scenario: Managing distraction (without taking away people’s phones)
  • Categorize under: Effective meetings
  • Advisor: Michael Carroll

In today’s business world, with all its speed, distractibility and stress, people are discovering that “human attention” is one of our most valued workplace assets. Here are three suggestions for getting—and respecting—people’s attention during daily work meetings.

Listen: We all know what it looks like when someone’s not listening: rambling on, repeating a point of view, spacing out, fiddling with devices, even behaving as though they “know” what we’re about to say. But when someone truly listens, we sense a respectful attentiveness to more than our words—there’s an alertness to our being, tone of voice, body posture, and more. Not surprisingly, too, when we listen, people tend to offer their attention in return. By genuinely listening, whether in meetings or generally at work, we model and foster the attentive availability we all seek.

Invite: Business meetings are as much about helping others make their points as they are about making our own. Invite people to participate by asking questions, summarizing discussion, asking for clarification, appreciating insights, and encouraging dialogue. By actively helping the meeting take shape, we invite and encourage people to participate and offer their attention.

Appreciate: While some people are preoccupied with their devices, talk incessantly, or appear to be thinking of things other than the work at hand, there are many who do not behave this way. Be sure to recognize those who offer their attentiveness and openness. Appreciate those who listen and invite their voices to shape the conversation.

Michael Carroll is the author of Fearless at Work.

You become a better leader when you leave space to reflect before sharing conclusions and insights.

  • Scenario: Getting the higher-ups to see the value in your employee
  • Categorize under: Middle management
  • Advisor: Janice Marturano

Assessing the value of a person’s work is not a straightforward process. There are many factors to take into account in gauging someone’s contribution, and managers can vary widely in their views about what matters most. It will be helpful, then, to have a very open conversation with your boss about what you see as your direct report’s strengths. You may want to focus specifically on the aspects of his performance that most support what your boss needs.

Before you start the conversation, though, take some time to consider what facts support your assessment. What are the tangible and intangible attributes that lead to your conclusion that he or she does excellent work? Why might your boss see it differently? Are you and your boss aligned on what are the most valuable contributions employees need to make? Is there any chance that you are getting in the way of people above you seeing how valuable your employee is?

It’s natural for us to bring our own filters, likes, and dislikes into our assessments of staff members. You become a better leader when you leave space to reflect on how you’re reaching your conclusions before you share them with others—in informal discussions or formal evaluations. Having a little bit of nonjudgmental space is vitally important when we’re assessing those we perceive as strong performers, and it’s even more important in assessing those we think are not pulling their weight.

Janice Marturano of the Institute for Mindful Leadership is the author of Finding the Space to Lead.

This article also appeared in the April 2014 issue of Mindful magazine.

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Michael Carroll

Michael Carroll is a regular contributor to Mindful magazine on work-life issues. He is the author of Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life's Demands, The Mindful Leader, and Awake at Work.

Janice Marturano

Janice Marturano is founder and executive director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, a no-nprofit that trains and supports leaders in exploring mindfulness and leadership excellence. She founded the institute after ending her tenure as Vice President, Public Responsibility and Deputy General Counsel for General Mills. She is the author of Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership.

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