Re-Blog: "Leaders: Try a Little Mindfulness"

This article, based off of research done by the China-Europe International Business School draws from a primarily qualitative study on mindful leadership. They recommend looking at mindfulness when hiring and training company leaders, and the evidence point to mindful leaders reducing negative work incidents and increase employee engagement and satisfaction. 

Original Article:

The toxic work culture at the ride-hailing company Uber was among the reasons why a group of investors recently forced out its CEO Travis Kalanick. Company culture typically comes from the top; employees take their cues from company leaders about what behaviours are acceptable in the workplace. The issues at Uber, which received extensive media coverage, included battles between the company and its drivers over some of its compensation practices, and an investigation into around 200 bullying and sexual harassment allegations.

When Uber evaluates CEO and other C-Suite candidates, besides the traditional personality and competence assessments it should also evaluate their mindfulness, according to the results of a new study co-authored by several CEIBS faculty members. The researchers explored how leader mindfulness enhances employee performance, and their results show that leaders who are more mindful are more likely to follow fair principles (what academics call procedural justice) when making important decisions. This includes allowing employees to express their views, giving them influence on the decision, and adhering to ethical standards. In the case of Uber, it seems that the CEO mostly ignored the perspective of his employees (e.g. when they complained about company culture/practices) and of the drivers (when they complained about declining pay). A more mindful approach would have helped him to be open to the signals by his employees and to adhere to ethical standards, which may also promote performance in the organization. As the researchers found, this is in part because increased procedural justice reduces employees’ emotional exhaustion. This study by CEIBS faculty is one of the first to examine how a person’s mindfulness can influence the attitudes and behaviours of others.

The researchers conducted three studies in their exploration. The first involved an online survey of 277 US employees across a wide range of occupations and industries which asked questions designed to rate their leaders’ mindfulness and their own degree of emotional exhaustion and performance at work. The second study was done in China. The researchers surveyed 54 team leaders and 182 employees from various organizations in China. Leaders were surveyed on their degree of mindfulness and asked to provide contact information of at least five direct subordinates. The subordinates were later contacted and asked to complete an online survey that measured the degree of their leaders’ procedural justice and their own emotional exhaustion. Next, the researchers asked the leaders to rate their employees’ performance. The final study was a laboratory experiment. The researchers recruited 62 senior managers from various organizations in China and randomly assigned them to one of two conditions, an experimental condition (mindfulness), and a control condition (unfocused attention). The participants then listened to a 10-minute pre-recorded audio clip based on which condition they were assigned to, and afterwards completed a survey designed to measure their mindfulness and degree of procedural justice.

The results suggest that promoting leader mindfulness may be an effective way to reduce unfair behaviours. Besides measuring the mindfulness of candidates for supervisory roles, companies may want to promote a culture that recognizes and rewards the benefits of mindfulness. The researchers also suggest that companies should consider mindfulness training programmes. The improved employee well-being and performance that would result, particularly when mindful leaders are better able to follow fair principles in their decision-making, would seem to outweigh the costs involved.

The results of the study have been published by the Journal of Business Ethics in the paper titled “The Interpersonal Benefits of Leader Mindfulness: A serial mediation model linking leader mindfulness, leader procedural justice enactment, and employee exhaustion and performance”. The authors are Assistant Professor of Management Sebastian C. SchuhLecturer of Management Michelle Xue ZhengProfessor of Management Katherine R. Xin, and Professor of Management Juan Antonio Fernandez . Read the paper here.

Lessons in Mindfulness...From an NBA Team?

Inspiration that comes from unexpected places can often be the most interesting. In this article, originally by Jason Marsh for Greater Good Magazine talks about the 2017 NBA Champions the Golden State Warriors and how they create a culture of mindfulness that has in part helped them reach the pinnacle of their sport. 

Original post:

Three Greater Good Lessons from the Golden State Warriors

The NBA Champions are a case study in mindfulness, empathy, and cooperation.


The Golden State Warriors are a Greater Good team.

I say that not only because they play in Oakland, just a few miles from our office. Nor because several of our staff (myself included) have been known to skip out of work early to cheer them on. Nor even because our faculty director, Dacher Keltner, sat in on a couple of Warriors practices earlier this season.

Kevin Durant (left) and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors celebrate with Curry's daughter after winning the 2017 NBA Finals.

No, I say that because throughout their dominant run across the NBA regular season, playoffs, and Finals, they preached and played by Greater Good values. Indeed, Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr has deliberately shaped the Warriors’ team culture around four core valuesjoymindfulnesscompassion, and competition. That last one is a no-brainer for any professional sports team, but the first three are less conventional—and they obviously resonate with our work here at the Greater Good Science Center.

When the Warriors reclaimed the NBA championship from the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this week, those values took center stage. From their postgame interviews, as well as their play during the finals and their season as a whole, I took away three lessons that, according to Greater Good science, feel just as important to finding satisfaction in life as they do to finding success on the court.

1. Good things happen when you focus on the present.

Finals MVP Kevin Durant has been one of the top players in the NBA for a decade. But his consistently jaw-dropping performance in the Finals—including the most clutch shot of the Warriors’ season—brought him to a new level of greatness. What made the difference?

“I just tried to stay in the moment the whole series, and I think that worked for me,” he said after Game 5. “I remember plenty of times throughout my career, I continued to look in the past or look ahead, and not stay in the moment. And this series, I just stayed in the moment.”

That sounds a whole lot like mindfulness, the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surrounding environment—and one of the Warriors’ core values.

While mindfulness is often seen as something you practice during formal meditation, many experts, including famed author and mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, stress that it’s better thought of as a state or quality you can bring to any activity. That could be taking out the garbage, enjoying an ice cream cone, or shooting a three-pointer with LeBron James in your face. The key is that you’re attuned to the present moment, not dwelling on the past or lost in the future.

Research has linked mindfulness to a whole host of benefits, from better health to more positive emotions to more compassionate behavior. While I bet Durant wouldn’t mind any of those, perhaps most relevant is the research linking mindfulness to sharper focus and less distractibility. And as we have reported in the past, studies have even linked mindfulness to concrete improvements on the basketball court, such as better defense and a higher free throw percentage.

Other teams, like the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Cubs, have embraced mindfulness in recent years. Perhaps not coincidentally, those teams won the Super Bowl and the World Series, respectively. Add Durant and the Warriors to that list of mindful champions.

2. Empathic joy feels better than selfish joy.

In his post-game press conference soon after vanquishing the Cavaliers, Warriors power forward Draymond Green was asked how it felt to share this championship with some NBA veterans, like JaVale McGee and David West, who were new to the Warriors this season and had never won it all.

“To see them celebrate that,” he said, “was an even better feeling than just celebrating it [myself].”

Draymond was onto something. In fact, research suggests that people experience greater pleasure after succeeding as part of a team than they do on their own. That might be at least partly because, in certain situations, seeing other people smile seems to activate the same brain regions as when you smile yourself, flooding you with happy feelings.

As my Greater Good colleague Emiliana Simon-Thomas has written, “This research suggests that seeing teammates’ expressions of triumph and joy may enhance one’s own experience of triumph and joy.”

Researchers call this experience “empathic joy”—feeling another person’s happiness as your own. And they’ve found that it doesn’t just carry benefits for NBA champs: A recent study found that when teachers experienced empathic joy with their students, those students later scored higher on standardized tests.

3. Cooperation is key to getting ahead.

It has become something of a cliché to call the Warriors an “unselfish” team—this is, after all, a team whose motto for the past several seasons has been “Strength in Numbers.”

But that ethos was put to the test this season with the arrival of Durant, a four-time NBA scoring champion, who joined last year’s scoring leader, Stephen Curry. Would both of those superstars—along with All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green—be able to share the ball, and the spotlight, for the good of the team?

The statistics speak for themselves: They earned a league-leading 67 wins—and led the league in assists, with 20 percent more than any other team. Curry took about 10 percent fewer shots per game than he had the previous season; Durant took 14 percent fewer. And, unlike last season, the Warriors finished as champions.

“We got an unselfish team who just wants to win,” said Klay Thompson. “They don’t care who gets the stats or the accolades.”

Durant said he and his teammates embraced a message preached by Warriors “sixth man” Andre Iguodala: “It’s all about the group.”

And research suggests they were wise to do so. Indeed, studies across species—from ants to fish to bats to humans—have found that groups whose members sacrifice their own personal self-interest for the good of the group are more likely to survive, and thrive, in competitive environments.

The evolutionary edge we get from cooperating might explain this provocative finding by Harvard researchers David G. Rand, Joshua D. Greene, and Martin A. Nowak: When people are pressed to make snap decisions between cooperating and competing, they choose to cooperate. “Although the cold logic of self-interest is seductive,” they write, “our first impulse is to cooperate.”

While the 2016-17 Warriors could arguably compete with any team from NBA history, this season they proved that the best way to compete is to cooperate.

“That’s what, to me, carries teams over the top,” Kerr told the sports website Bleacher Report soon after the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers. “A lot of teams have talent, and obviously we have great talent. But when that talent is committed to the greater good . . . that takes you over the top.”

Caring Deeply for Others Without Burning Out

For many professionals, and notably those working in the health field, burnout can be a big problem. Constantly needing to remain compassionate and mindful around very high touch and stressful situations often leads to a mental and emotional disconnect from patients, families, and coworkers. This short re-post, originally from Susan Talan from gives a few short ways to recognize when you may be on the brink of burnout, and what you can do about it. 

Original article:

How to Care Deeply Without Burning Out

Sharon Salzberg and Dan Harris explore how to recognize the signs of empathy fatigue and maintain a balanced, mindful, compassionate response.

By Susan Talan | June 9, 2017

Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of and responsive to the emotions of others. But when we face the suffering of others without equanimity, our empathetic response can overwhelm us. “I think it’s almost inevitable that we get burnt out, at least from time to time,” says meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. Part of the reason that happens is that we respond to the suffering of others without recognizing the difference between empathy and compassion.

You can acknowledge the pain, you can want to help, but you have to recognize that you can’t change other people’s experience of the world.

When we sense the suffering of others, that’s empathy. But our response might be to forget about it, or feel like we can’t bear it, or we might start blaming. Having compassion is a choice we make consciously and it can only happen with the balance of equanimity. In this conversation between Sharon and Dan Harris, of 10% Happier, they talk about the difference between empathy and compassion, and explore a few ways to avoid burning out.

How to Care Deeply Without Burning Out

  • Know the difference between empathy and compassion. Empathy is our natural resonance with the emotions of others, where we sense the difficulty someone might be feeling. Compassion is one of the many responses to empathy.
  • Realize when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s inevitable that we will all experience burnout. What’s important is recognizing what’s happening and moving towards balance. Compassion implies a stability of attention and caring in a wise and balanced way—caring about yourself and others.
  • Recognize that you can’t change others. Compassion also implies a wisdom and intelligence to know that it’s not up to you to fix the world for others. You can’t function if you’re just taking in other’s pain all the time. There’s a balance that’s crucial: You can acknowledge the pain, you can want to help, but you have to recognize that you can’t change other people’s experience of the world. That’s the letting go. Dan Harris puts it this way: “My father says the hardest thing about having kids is letting them make their own mistakes. That’s compassion with equanimity.” 

Dive in deeper with Sharon and Dan in Episode #81: Sharon Salzberg, ‘Real Love’ on the 10% Happier podcast.


Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Leadership Development Program 3.0: Embracing Gender Diversity in Leadership at the Michigan League! In this relevant article, from HBR in 2013, the authors speak to executives about how they are working to increase diversity in their companies. The article finishes with 8 methods to help increase diversity in your organization. 

Original article: 

Business leaders send a powerful message when they demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion that goes beyond rhetoric. But how does diversity make its way to the top of a CEO’s agenda? To find out, we interviewed 24 CEOs from around the globe who ran companies and corporate divisions that had earned reputations for embracing people from all kinds of backgrounds. These executives represented a wide range of industries and regions, as well as different stages on the journey to creating an inclusive culture. Our goal was to understand not only why they had made diversity a strategic priority but also how they executed on their goals and what that meant to the organization and its practices.

How We Chose the CEOs

The CEOs we spoke with did not see diversity as a once-and-done initiative, nor did they hand off the responsibility for it to others. Rather, each of the 24, in his or her own way, approached inclusivity as a personal mission. When we asked these executives why advancing diversity in their organizations was so important to them, the aggregate answer was twofold: They believed it was a business imperative because their companies needed it to stay competitive, and they believed it was a moral imperative because of their personal experiences and values. As Mikael Ohlsson of the Swedish home-products company IKEA put it, “My leadership on diversity is vision-driven from a business point of view and value-driven at the foundation.”

These CEOs spoke forcefully about diversity as an advantage. Paul Block of the U.S. sweetener manufacturer Merisant pointed out, “People with different lifestyles and different backgrounds challenge each other more. Diversity creates dissent, and you need that. Without it, you’re not going to get any deep inquiry or breakthroughs.” Or, as Jonathan Broomberg of the South African insurer Discovery Health put it, diversity is “a source of creativity and innovation.”

A diverse workforce also prevents an organization from becoming too insular and out of touch with its increasingly heterogeneous customer base. Many of the CEOs asserted that it is crucial for a company’s employees to reflect the people they serve. Brian Moynihan of Bank of America saw an important link to customer satisfaction: “When internal diversity and inclusion scores are strong, and employees feel valued, they will serve our customers better, and we’ll be better off as an organization.”

The Role of Personal Experience

A CEO’s commitment often arises from his or her own understanding of what it means to be an outsider. Take Andrea Jung of the personal-care-products firm Avon. (Note that Jung, like a number of other CEOs we talked with, has stepped down since our interview with her.) Describing her career, she said: “I was often the only woman or Asian sitting around a table of senior executives. I experienced plenty of meetings outside my organization with large groups of executives where people assumed that I couldn’t be the boss, even though I was.” MasterCard’s CEO, Ajay Banga—a Sikh from India who was hassled in the United States after 9/11—shared something similar: “My passion for diversity comes from the fact that I myself am diverse. There have been a hundred times when I have felt different from other people in the room or in the business. I have a turban and a full beard, and I run a global company—that’s not common.”

Carlos Ghosn of Nissan Motor Company told us how bias had affected his own family. “My mother was one of eight children,” he said. “She used to be a very brilliant student, and when the time came to go to college, she wanted to become a doctor. Unfortunately, her mother had to explain to her that there was not enough money in the family, and that the money for college was going to the boys and the girls would instead have to marry. When I was a kid and my mother was telling me this story—without any bitterness, by the way, just matter-of-fact—I was outraged because it was my mother. After hearing that story, I said I would never do anything to hurt someone based on segregation.”

To Ghosn, gender bias is a personal affront. “When I see that women do not have the same opportunities as men, it touches me in a personal way,” he said. “I think it’s some kind of refusal related to my sisters or to my daughters.”

Even white male CEOs had stories to share. Kentucky native Jim Rogers of the electric-utility holding company Duke Energy felt like an outsider at the start of his career. “When I went to Washington to be a lawyer, I felt like I had to work harder, be better, and prove myself because I had a southern accent and came from a rural state,” he said. The self-awareness, insight, and empathy that Rogers and other chief executives acquired from personal experience have clearly shaped their attitudes toward diversity and inclusion and informed their priorities as leaders.

Persistent Institutional Barriers

The CEOs were generally disappointed with the lack of progress on diversity in the C-suite. While several women have risen through the ranks to become leaders of multibillion-dollar corporations, the statistics are grim overall. Only 4% of companies on the 2013 Fortune 500 list are led by female CEOs. As Banga acknowledged, “That’s more than what it used to be 20 years ago, but it’s nowhere near where it should be.” The disparity also persists in other senior leadership positions and on boards. Ken Frazier of Merck offered a harsher assessment: “I think that the progress of women in the last two decades has been so limited, so slow, so inadequate, that it would defy even the most skeptical people from 20 years ago.”

We asked the CEOs what they perceived to be the greatest obstacles to women’s advancement in their own companies and industries. Although there’s no one truth about what holds women back, the leaders we spoke with offered candid views based on years of observation.

If there’s a single barrier that affects all women, it’s exclusion from networks and conversations that open doors to further development and promotion, according to seven of the CEOs. Woods Staton of Arcos Dorados, the largest operator of McDonald’s restaurants in Latin America, defined the offending mechanism as “social cliquishness,” a pattern of interaction in which men seek out the company of other men and ignore women. “The men come out of a meeting, hang out with each other, and then go out at night for drinks,” Staton explained. “It’s subtle discrimination, and it’s difficult to work around.” Barry Salzberg of the professional services firm Deloitte described this pattern as a tangible, negative consequence of “the old boys’ network.”

Frazier went so far as to say, “I’m an African-American, and I’ve worked in the business world all my life, and I believe very strongly that whatever barriers race presents in the workforce, they pale in comparison to the barriers that women face when creating the close mentoring relationships that are necessary to be promoted.” We find that this kind of discrimination is often unintended, unconscious, and embedded in a company’s culture.

The CEOs also reported that the contributions of women are often underappreciated. As an example, Jim Turley of Ernst & Young described an incident when he himself was called out: “I like to facilitate our board discussions by getting right into the more contentious points, and we were having a discussion around a particular topic. Three women on the board made individual comments that were similar in direction, which I didn’t respond to. Not long after they spoke, a fourth person, who happened to be a man, made a comment in line with what the women had been saying, and I picked up on his comment. I said, ‘I think Jeff’s got it right,’ not even aware of what I had just done. To their great credit, the women didn’t embarrass me publicly. They pulled me to the side, and they said, ‘Jim, we know you didn’t mean for this to be the way it was received, but this is what happened.’ They played it back to me, and they said that that’s what happens to women throughout their careers. It was a learning moment for me.”

Clearly, even leaders passionate about building inclusive cultures can inadvertently allow unconscious biases to shape their behavior.

Five of the CEOs asserted that unexamined assumptions also constrained women’s chances to progress. As Frazier explained, “If a job requires a woman to travel a lot, sometimes people decide preemptively that she’s got a young child at home—this won’t be something she’s interested in.” Double standards can also trip up women in line for promotions, as when characteristics prized in male leaders are viewed as negative qualities in women. “When men come into the environment and they’re tough, they’re perceived as strong business leaders,” said Block. “When women come in and they’re tough, it’s not always as valued.”

Geographic immobility due to family constraints was another problem, mentioned by three of the CEOs. “People often require geographic mobility to get the appropriate amount of exposure to the various aspects of the business that they need to understand,” Randall Stephenson of AT&T noted. “As managers mature, we observe that some female managers get to a place where they want to begin families or their spouse also works, which makes them less inclined to move and physically relocate their families.” Jung concurred: “In my experience, where part of career development and part of talent management was getting a ‘global passport’ stamped, one of the barriers for women could have been mobility. I saw that beyond the opportunity for the individual, we also had to try to create all of the opportunities necessary to make sure the whole family could in fact move.”

Another three CEOs cited insufficient support for women who were rejoining the workforce after taking time off to raise children. Any organization that hopes to encourage women to succeed needs to address that, noted Rogers. “If a woman is pregnant and leaves, you have to have the flexibility to allow her to do that but not lose her place or her momentum,” he said.

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Motor Company

My mother was one of eight children. She used to be a very brilliant student, and when the time came to go to college, she wanted to become a doctor. Unfortunately, her mother had to explain to her that there was not enough money in the family, and that the money for college was going to the boys and the girls would instead have to marry. After hearing that story, I said I would never do anything to hurt someone based on segregation.

Unsurprisingly, five CEOs brought up barriers related to childbearing and child rearing, and six mentioned a lack of flexible work hours. They observed that the push-and-pull between work and family, though increasingly an issue for men too, remains predominantly a barrier for women. George Chavel of Sodexo North America drove home that point, asking, “Why should women have to be superhuman, have these reputations of ‘They can do it all,’ and make these major sacrifices, and men don’t have those kinds of expectations placed on them?”

Do Women Lead Differently?

Eight of the CEOs perceived a distinction between male and female leadership styles. Though social scientists may not agree with their take on things, the CEOs said that women were less political, less likely to define themselves by their careers, more collaborative, better listeners, more relationship-oriented, and more empathetic and reasonable. We also heard that women were more likely to focus on completing the job at hand and to neglect to position themselves for recognition or promotion, while men were more apt to seek attention.

This tendency not to assert themselves could hold women back. George Halvorson of the California-based managed-care consortium Kaiser Permanente explained the problem this way: “There are cultural barriers, in that leaders who are looking for the next generation of leaders, for the people to promote, are less likely to see and understand the capable women that they have in their shop, probably because the male style tends to focus more on being in the spotlight, and the female style tends to focus more on bringing people together to get things done. The very thing that makes the best female leaders very successful also makes them less visible, and that’s an incredibly important distinction. A good leader knows to look for things that have gone really well and then drills down to find the person who really did it, as opposed to just looking for whoever has a lot of accolades and did the dance.”

But some differences in leadership style can work to women’s advantage, said several CEOs. “When you’ve got a complex project involving multiple layers, you need a leader who is collaborative, and more often than not I have found that leader to be a woman,” said Halvorson.

What Is an Inclusive Culture?

Resoundingly, the CEOs agreed on what an inclusive culture meant for their organizations. They defined it as one in which employees can contribute to the success of the company as their authentic selves, while the organization respects and leverages their talents and gives them a sense of connectedness. “In an inclusive culture employees know that, irrespective of gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, and physical ability, you can fulfill your personal objectives by aligning them with the company’s, have a rich career, and be valued as an individual. You are valued for how you contribute to the business,” said David Thodey of Telstra, the Australian telecommunications firm. Brad Wilson of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina described an inclusive workplace as “one where all who come with the professional skills sufficient to perform the requirements of the job feel welcome, supported, and rewarded, and are inspired to succeed based on their ability.” That’s similar to the point that John Rowe of Exelon, a U.S. energy producer and distributor, made when he noted that a culture of mutual respect helps his company address the complexities of its business. “A big organization needs only a few generals and a lot of sergeants,” he said. “The sergeants deserve respect too.”

Some CEOs observed that the proof is not only in how individual employees feel about opportunities for growth but also in how teams operate and decisions are made. “In an inclusive culture, we create and support heterogeneous teams,” said Chavel. “They may take longer to make decisions than homogeneous teams, but it’s worth the investment because their decisions will be better informed.” To these CEOs, inclusiveness is not merely a matter of the composition of the organization or of particular teams (though such metrics can be helpful); it also has to do with how people relate to one another. “Broad diversity is necessary, but if you just walk away after you have it, you may not get the outcomes you want,” said Steve Voigt of King Arthur Flour, a company where women account for three of eight board members and three of six senior executives. “You really have to manage it, grow it, and educate around it.”

Practices That Make the Difference

Turley drew an important distinction: “Diversity itself is about the mix of people you have, and creating an inclusive culture is about making that mix work.” We asked the CEOs which of their organizations’ practices had been most effective at harnessing diversity. Here’s what they told us:

1. Measure diversity and inclusion.

The CEOs agreed that metrics are key because, as we know, what gets measured gets done. Bank of America, for example, puts questions about diversity and inclusiveness into its biannual employee engagement survey and compares the results for any team that gets at least seven responses against those of a normative group of companies. “We’ve also built a diversity-and-inclusion index that tells us if people here feel they are treated fairly and to help us ensure that people of diverse backgrounds can succeed at Bank of America,” said Moynihan. “With this data, each team can have a dialogue to determine what we’re doing well and what we can improve to make Bank of America a better place to work.”

2. Hold managers accountable.

Merck, Nissan, General Mills, Telstra, and ABB North America are among the many organizations that make diversity and inclusion goals part of their managers’ performance objectives. “Each of my direct reports has things that they’re going to do personally to help promote diversity, not things that they can assign to their team,” explained Moynihan. “I say, ‘What are you going to do to get involved?’ For example, they can mentor somebody individually or sponsor diversity events.” AT&T takes a different approach. “We benchmark diversity objectives at the senior levels of management, and we have regular meetings around my table about how we’re advancing,” said Stephenson. “A portion of our officers’ compensation is based on achieving those objectives.” Many CEOs also reported that managers who embraced diversity were more likely to be considered for promotion at their companies.

In some organizations a favorable attitude toward diversity even determines whether an employee is viewed as a good fit for the organization. “We really have challenges when the leadership group is not diverse and they don’t get it. And so you have to educate them—and if they still don’t get it, I let them go,” said Tim Solso of the engine manufacturer Cummins. He elaborated: “We hit a serious downturn in the second half of 2000 through the first half of 2003. I mean, we were on the brink as a company, but I didn’t back off on diversity. One of the senior officers basically said to another officer, ‘Why doesn’t Solso get off this diversity stuff? We need to save the company.’ I fired him. It was well known why he was fired. After that, people either got it or didn’t talk that way anymore.”

3. Support flexible work arrangements.

Many of the CEOs reported that their organizations offered benefits that helped employees balance their professional and personal commitments—such as flexible hours, on-site child care, and onboarding support after a leave of absence. Ken Powell of the U.S. food processor General Mills explained his company’s efforts this way: “I’ve had officers at General Mills say to me, ‘I realize that I’m one of several people who could be the brand manager for Cheerios, but I’m the only person who can be the mother to my children.’ While some of those women make the decision to leave the company—sometimes permanently—we’ve learned that we can retain many of them by providing greater flexibility during those hectic childbearing years.”

Jim Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young

Three women on the board made individual comments that were similar in direction, which I didn’t respond to. Not long after they spoke, a fourth person, who happened to be a man, made a comment in line with what the women had been saying, and I said, ‘I think Jeff’s got it right,’ not even aware of what I had just done. To their great credit, the women didn’t embarrass me publicly. They pulled me to the side and played it back to me. It was a learning moment for me.

At Sodexo North America, Chavel and his leadership team have made work/life balance a personal matter. “Although the job is 24/7, I try to send the message that I’m open and receptive to any kind of flexible arrangement,” Chavel said. “For example, I will end a meeting early to get to one of my sons’ athletic events or travel somewhere for a family commitment.”

4. Recruit and promote from diverse pools of candidates.

Workforce diversity begins with the search for talent. At General Mills, Powell’s leadership team tracks metrics during and after the hiring process. “From the beginning, we’re looking at the composition of the pool of candidates that we interview on campus, because that’s an important early indicator,” Powell told us. “Then we look at the composition of the group of people we hire in any given year. We track the retention rate for different groups, such as women or African-Americans. Even interns. At what rate are they leaving? At what rate are they getting promoted? What percentage advances to each level in the company? Our metrics help us diagnose and understand what’s going on—enabling us to develop action plans to address any issues we see. It’s important, and that’s why I review those metrics myself on a quarterly basis.”

Ghosn has taken a different approach at Nissan in Japan, where women are strikingly underrepresented in management ranks. “We’ve implemented quotas in hiring, particularly in the populations where there are fewer women—like engineering—and we make sure that in the succession plans of the company we always have a specific number of female candidates,” he explained. “This forces management to identify women in their own ranks or to hire more women. So when it comes time for promotions, we have a diverse group of candidates from which we can choose. I believe quotas are a great way of advancing diversity, particularly when you have a long way to go and you don’t want to wait forever. After a company attains a certain level of diversity, I think quotas lose their effectiveness. But when you’re moving from 1% female managers to 5%, if you don’t enforce a quota, it’s going to take forever to reach that number.”

Owing in part to this strategy, the representation of women in Nissan’s management has increased three times as fast as the average rate in Japan over the past decade.

5. Provide leadership education.

Another key practice is providing leadership development opportunities for women at the lower levels of the organization, which tend to be more diverse. Broomberg described Discovery Health’s CEO Program like this: “It’s a brilliant two-year program which involves candidates in intensive internal and external training, significant exposure to senior executives, and travel to the U.S. to do a course at Duke. It includes external candidates and young candidates from previously disadvantaged backgrounds already in the company. It’s a big financial investment for us, but we’ve been able to add quite a lot of muscle to our recruitment capacity and also invest significantly in the more rapid advancement of existing internal candidates.”

And Johnson & Johnson’s Bill Weldon noted that diversity training cannot be hived off from the rest of the operation. It has to be woven into the culture. “About 10 years ago one of the women’s leadership initiative programs was being held across the street, and I asked the people running it if I could go to the program,” he recalled. “They said no. I asked why not, and they said I couldn’t go because I was a man. My response was that that may be the problem—you have to broaden it beyond women. We evolve and learn and grow to make sure we’re capturing not just the people involved but the views of the whole community.”

Needless to say, companies should also offer their high-potential employees opportunities for external education and development. But according to Harvard Business School, only 23% of participants in executive education programs on the Boston campus in 2012 were women. Companies also need to invest in women-only leadership development programs and in educating both men and women about subtle gender biases and how they manifest themselves in firms.

6. Sponsor employee resource groups and mentoring programs.

Several of the CEOs’ companies offered less structured professional development opportunities to various subgroups of employees. One approach is employee resource groups, or networks of employees who share an affiliation (such as women, ethnic minorities, or young professionals). Angela Braly of the U.S. managed-care firm WellPoint underlined the importance of leveraging such groups in substantive ways. “I visit each group twice a year and give them real assignments,” she said. “I am very clear about my expectation that they will have a real impact on the business.”

Companies must also invest in these groups, according to Banga. “Here at MasterCard we have many business resource groups, or BRGs,” he said. “We have women’s leadership networks, a YoPro group for young professionals, a group for employees of African descent, a pride community, a Latino community, and an ‘East’ community for Asian employees. Each BRG has a business sponsor, who’s normally a direct report of mine. We do a ton of things with them, from employee-networking events to multicultural summits to a women’s forum for which we get outside speakers as well as panels comprised of me and members of my board.”

7. Offer quality role models.

It’s no surprise that diversity at the top promotes diversity throughout an organization. A varied array of leaders signals an organizational commitment to diversity and also provides emerging leaders with role models they can identify with. Several of the CEOs, including those from Kaiser Permanente, Sodexo North America, King Arthur Flour, Duke Energy, and Cummins, said that putting women in leadership roles was key to attracting, retaining, and developing other female talent. Rogers described how Duke did this: “This historically has been a man’s industry. So, early on, we worked to move a woman into a plant manager position. That set an example. You have to be intentional and make sure you populate your organization with leaders who represent diversity. That creates an environment that allows those with diverse backgrounds to say, ‘If they can, I can.’ That is a very important feeling that needs to be embedded in the people in the company.”

As for individualized employee development, many CEOs cited the importance of mentorship and sponsorship opportunities. Ohlsson explained IKEA’s unique approach to mentorship this way: “We have a grandfathering/grandmothering principle at IKEA—that is to say that a hiring boss has to have another manager say yes to a candidate before that person can be hired. Two people then share the responsibility for the development of that individual.” Such double sponsorship increases the likelihood that talented employees of any background will feel supported and stay with the company.

But Halvorson warned against tokenism—the practice of putting people into jobs because of their classification, not their ability. “If you put someone in place who fits a certain category but doesn’t have the skill set needed to do the job, then you basically set the whole agenda back significantly,” he said. “My sense is to hire stars, and the constellation is far more effective if it’s a diverse constellation.”

8. Make the chief diversity officer position count.

As this relatively new role proliferates across industries, CEOs must decide how to maximize its effectiveness. At the time of his interview, Enrique Santacana of ABB North America had just received approval from the firm’s North America Executive Committee to create a chief diversity and inclusion officer position, reporting directly to him. “We want to make sure that people understand that it has full support from the top, and it’s not just a communications message that goes out there with no follow-up,” he explained. “It institutionalizes the process and the intent, and it establishes a formal means by which we will develop programs as well as metrics, so that we can track our progress.”

Lead by Example

Once the vision of an inclusive culture has been articulated and best practices have been put in place, what is the CEO’s daily contribution to seeing that the vision becomes a reality? Nearly half the CEOs said their most important role was to set the tone for the organization’s culture by demonstrating a commitment to inclusion.

Perhaps the most meaningful way to do that is by dedicating time to work personally on diversity and inclusion initiatives. A quarter of the CEOs we interviewed mentioned direct involvement with diversity programs, such as meeting regularly with employee resource groups and diversity councils. Banga, Moynihan, and Thodey even chair diversity and inclusion councils themselves. By pointing the way, CEOs will help their organizations attract and develop the best, most diverse talent, giving them the edge they need to succeed.

A version of this article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Boris Groysberg is a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and the coauthor, with Michael Slind, of Talk, Inc. (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). His work examines how a firm can be systematic in achieving a sustainable competitive advantage by leveraging its talent at all levels of the organization. Follow him on Twitter @bgroysberg.

Katherine Connolly is a research associate in the organizational behavior unit at HBS.

Back in the Game: Jim Hackett Returns to the CEO Role, this Time at Ford Motor Company

This article, originally from a conversation from University of Michigan Ross School of Business professor Dr. Robert Pasick highlights leadership lessons from new Ford Motor Company CEO, Jim Hackett. Many leadership lessons can be translated to the healthcare field, and Mr. Hackett's view on service and long-term thinking are great to keep in mind! 

Original article from 

Congratulations to Jim Hackett, on being named CEO of Ford Motor Company!  Jim was my guest at my LEADERS CONNECT Breakfast in Ann Arbor  in 2016.  From this event, here are some of his insights about leadership.

In the 20 years of presentations at eaders Connect, Jim Hackett’s discussion about leadership is absolutely one of the best we’ve ever heard. Like most excellent speakers, Jim not only told great stories, but he gave sound and inspiring advice. Here are some of the highlights of the leadership lessons we heard from Jim Hackett.

  • “Three important questions to ask when coaching: what do you want to do less of, what do you want to do more of, what do you want to stop?”
  • “Employ human centered design thinking in your planning: this means diveent hinking and taking a thorough deep dive into analytics.”
  • sk yourself: “on your death bed are you going to remember what you did for yourself or for others?” The answer to this question leads to servant leadership. Your value as a human being is not diminished by failure. Have the self-confidence never lose sight of yourself as to who you are.
  • “In carrying out your strategy, think long term. As an example, it took months of planning and detail execution to come to an understanding with Jim Harbaugh to coach at Michigan.”’
  • “Treat everyone with equal respect: from the janitor to the board members.”
  • “Thinking long-term enables you to recognize when yo industry is likely to be disrupted. The university is one sector yet to face the full impact of disruption.”
  • Good boards are ‘ in, fingers out.’ Choose board members for their capabilities and their ability to work together.”
  • Diversity is critical and essential. “To gain more diversity, you must look for it. Look at it as an equity, an equal opportunity... to find talent, buil etworks with inority communities.”
  • “Success as an executive depends on continuous learning. Ask yourself what system you are using for continuous learning.”For example: Jim watches the Charlie Rose Show every day, reads continuously about science, and has attended Te or 30 years.
  • “Leadership is having a point of view. Decide what to do, set the course, and stick with it.”
  • “Empathy is crucial for effective leadership.”
  • “Organizatio must be willing to give up some of the old to get to the new.”
  • “If someone is rigidly opposing what you want to do, ask them “what would you have to believe to allow this to happen?”
  • Encourage self-reflection.
  • im’s sweet spot for a job: “working on hard, abstract problems with great smart people.”

Why Most Executives Miss the Point of Meditation

Mindfulness needs not always take the form of meditation or stillness- Doug Randall writes about his morning routine and how he adapts his mindful practices by leaning into his emotions as opposed to constantly searching for a purely calm presence. 


Original Article on Apr 27, 2017 by: Doug Randall

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What's your morning routine before going to work?” is written by Doug Randall, CEO of Protagonist.

My alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. every morning. Needless to say, some days it is more welcome than others. Running a business (and a family, along with my wife) usually means that as soon as I’m conscious, there’s something on my mind.

I’ve spent the past 15 years instilling a meditation and yoga practice, and it’s played a major role in helping me stay grounded as my company continues to grow. Every morning, I go to my rooftop or garden to meditate for about 25 minutes. I don’t use a guided meditation, but rather try to reach complete stillness.

Meditation isn’t an uncommon pastime amongst modern businesspeople, but I think many miss the purpose. When I meditate, I’m not trying to force myself to be peaceful if I don’t feel like I’m at peace. I’m quieting my mind so that I have room to understand more about what’s going on beneath the surface. I think many executives make the mistake of envisioning an outcome and then trying to force it into reality at all costs. But successful leadership in today’s world is more about listening and moving with the flow. I make an active effort to break out of that cycle, by breathing and bringing my focus outside myself.

There are some days when I don’t feel that I can meditate successfully—I might be too angry, anxious, or upset. On those days, I lean into the emotion. If a feeling is pervasive enough to keep me from my meditation, then I want to understand it. That means that if I’m not meditating, maybe I’m boxing with a punching bag. It’s not quite as zen as engaging in my practice, but it’s a lot more honest. I’ve found the best way to get past anger, stress, or any of those other negative emotions is to feel them completely.

I bring a pragmatic approach to my meditation and yoga practice, and I truly believe that they make me a more consistent and reliable leader. Starting off my day by really checking in with myself gives me a foundation for confident decision-making moving forward. I identify the lens through which I’m making business decisions, and can take that into account as new situations arise. The same framework helps me empathize with my employees’ and customers’ choices.

By the time I finish my meditation (or, occasionally, my boxing), I feel centered and ready for the day. This is the time for me to shower, check email, and temporarily tap back into the reality of the hours ahead.

By about 7 a.m., I’m wrapping up my morning routine at home by having breakfast with my family—one last bit of calm before I head into the office. I take time to connect with my kids over breakfast every morning, which is extremely important to me. It’s easy to push quality time with loved ones to the side, especially if I’m entering into an especially hectic day, but I’ve found that work that needs to be done at 7:30 a.m. can generally still get done at 8 a.m. Being fully present with my kids grounds me in a different way; it keeps me connected to values like generosity and joy that I try to bring to work every day.

A person’s morning routine sets the tone for the rest of their day. I put such a heavy emphasis on mine because I want to be a consistently thoughtful, decisive, reliable, and happy leader.

Re-Blog: Using Mindfulness to Manage Your Expectations

Here are a couple quick practices to approach the inevitable unmet expectations that you will come across. Be sure to not let these changes derail all of the other necessities in your life!

Original Article By George Pitagorsky | May 11, 2017 (

Every day, at work, at home, even on vacation, we deal with expectations. Our own expectations, and those of the people around us. Expectations are beliefs we have about something as it will be in the future: the project will be done on this date, the teenaged kids will wash the dishes, or ten miles is a reasonable distance to kayak in one day. Sometimes, expectations are based on accurate information and negotiated agreements. Often, they’re not. Even if the original expectation was carefully negotiated, situations can change.

What happens when expectations aren’t met? When the project isn’t done or the kayaking day stretches to 15 miles?

People become attached to their expectations. They can be very disappointed when their expectations are not met.

Unmet expectations can lead to disappointmentanger, and other disruptive feelings. If you are furious about the project delay when you walk into a meeting with the team that is behind schedule, at best your ability to think clearly about how to move forward will be impaired. At worst, you may say something you’ll later regret and lose self-control.

How Can Mindfulness Help?

Mindfulness is purposely paying attention with a mirror-like quality of mind. The mirror simply reflects. It is objective. What is reflected does not change the mirror.

Mindfulness enables choice, the opportunity to act instead of react.

Everyone is mindful to a degree. It is the ability to simply see or sense things as they are. It is attention to your physical sensations, thoughts, mental concepts, and feelings when you are climbing a ladder, walking down the street, driving a car, or writing an email.

In my new book, Managing Expectations: A Mindful Approach to Achieving Success, I highlight the critical importance of communication and relationships, the nuts-and-bolts processes of expectations management, and of not only recognizing your own feelings, but also how others react to you and the situation. The essence of mindfulness runs through all of these facets of making progress on just about anything. It is especially needed in the realm of work.

Mindlessness is the quality of doing without attention. Our habits and biases drive our decisions and behavior. We’re all familiar with this experience. We drive somewhere with no memory of how we got there. We space out for an hour, lost in thought about what we could have or should have done in some situation. We make decisions based on unconscious or unskillful beliefs and concepts. We react from negative emotions.

Mindfulness enables choice, the opportunity to act instead of react.

The good news is that no matter your age or how deeply engrained your habits, mindfulness can be cultivated and improved.

Using Mindfulness as a Tool for Managing Expectations

Here are two of the topics I cover in Managing Expectations where mindfulness plays a key role.

1) Barriers to setting healthy expectations

People want what they want when they want it. This wanting often clouds and closes the mind to rational thought. So we are inclined to lack mindfulness when setting expectations at the onset of a project, when it matters most. We become too ambitious, and move ahead with unrealistic expectations that are destined to leave us disappointed and create conflict. Mindfulness here can help prevent issues from bubbling up later on, when it is much more difficult to address them.

Practice: When starting something, make sure expectations are reasonable. Think the project through to the end, including all of the details. Communicate clearly, so everyone’s expectations are aligned. Being mindful now, at the beginning of something, will ensure a smoother flow toward its conclusion, and will increase the likelihood of success.

2) Unmet expectations and changing expectations bring up feelings

Things change. That’s the nature of reality. Sometimes an unexpected circumstance will come along to shift the scope of your project, and expectations will need to be adjusted. When this happens, you have a choice. React emotionally, with anger and resistance, or apply mindfulness, pause and consider your options before making a decision about how best to proceed.

Don’t just pivot in a new direction, make sure those around you who are involved are clear that the original expectations may no longer be a possibility.

Practice: When the unexpected occurs, take a pause and breathe before you react. Don’t just pivot in a new direction, make sure those around you who are involved are clear that the original expectations may no longer be a possibility. Use communication as your anchor.

Consciously noting your frustration allows you to accept it and respond rather than react. With mindfulness of your feelings, you can calm yourself down and start problem solving about how to handle the implications and manage expectations accordingly.

Keeping Compassion in the Medical Field

Remaining compassionate in any field can be trying, especially in the medical field. Joyce Hooley, a pediatrician, writes for "On Being" about her experience of going through medical school in the '80s, to her recent work in Ethiopia and how they affect her ability to stay compassionate about those she serves.

Original article:

“There is a great compassion deficit in medicine causing suffering to caregivers.”
Roshi Joan Halifax

For the past 25 years, I have carried with me a vivid memory from my third year of medical school. As I was leaving the emergency room in the early morning hours after one very exhausting night of call, I was thinking of quitting medical school. I was tired of being sleep-deprived, and tired of spending my days and nights immersed in a work culture that I experienced as cold and unfeeling. As I walked through the waiting room toward the exit door, my eyes fell on a woman with a young child on her lap sitting by the door.

Her shabby dress was dirty, her long hair was oily, and her weary eyes looked frightened, intimidated. The child was whimpering, his cheeks were flushed with fever, and I smelled the vomitus on his blanket as I approached.

I knew the ER in that hospital. I knew it was staffed by overworked, cynical residents who were quick to dismiss patients they saw as “dirtballs,” and I immediately felt for her, knowing the kind of treatment she was likely to receive. As my gaze fell on her I remember thinking, with resignation and fatigue, “OK, OK, I will stick this out for you. I am in this for you. You and your child.”

It was not that she was unique. I had seen many patients like her at that hospital, poor and timid women who meekly received whatever was meted out to them, and expressed their gratitude quietly when they were unexpectedly treated with respect and kindness. But this woman appeared at a particularly low moment for me. There she was, beside the exit door, presenting an eloquent symbol of my dilemma: To leave or to stay, to quit or to endure. Her appearance at that moment for some reason drew from me a determination not to quit, and her image came to me from time to time throughout the rest of that tough third year, like an apparition of some spiritual goddess whom I could not let down.

During my admissions interview for medical school in the 1980s, I had drawn blank stares from the interviewers when I spoke with reverence about my desire to be a compassionate healer. My remarks were met by uncomfortable silence. I was naïve about medical culture at the time, and did not anticipate that they would find my idealistic desire to be a healer an embarrassingly puny motivation for a vocation in medicine. They were at least not comfortable talking about it.

Like many medical students who at that time would never have been brave enough to admit it, I entered med school with heart, soul, and mind, a whole self that responded intuitively with awe to the sacred in the wonders of science. Every learning encounter aroused emotions as well as intellect. Throughout much of my medical school training, I felt a powerful force working to alienate me from my heart and soul, from my true and full self, and I struggled the entire time to hold that force at bay.

While I found physiology fascinating, and enjoyed taking histories, doing physical exams, attempting to solve diagnostic mysteries, and planning medical therapies, I also wanted to offer comfort. I needed to connect with my patients. Nowhere in the curriculum was this ever talked about. Despite the fact that we were interacting daily with dying and grieving people, medical school in that era frowned on emotional expression. It ignored the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of the practitioners as well as of the patients.

There was no place for the sensitive self. Sensitivity was actively discouraged. I sat through physiology classes with a professor who drew laughter from the class by describing his sadistic torture of cats. I watched with repulsion the menacing grimace on the face of another basic sciences professor who said to our class, “I will squash you until you are flatter than this coin in my hand.”

The cultural environment was hardly welcoming. Tenderness was scorned.
There was no understanding at my medical school of the arts as having any place in healing. During my internal medicine rotation I remember feeling the urge, when there was a rare quiet moment late at night, to sit at the end of the patient hallway and sing with my guitar. I needed the therapy of music and so did the patients, but music therapy for adult patients was unheard of in that hospital at that time, and I fought the urge, knowing that I would simply be looked upon as crazy.

Looking back now it amazes me that my fellow students and I were not more than a little depressed. One should expect depression from so much repression of one’s whole self, especially coupled with the sleep deprivation that was so much a part of our lives. Were it not for the gentle and insistent prodding of my husband, the kindly and wise encouragement of two exceptional faculty mentors, the companionship of a group of “older” female students who shared much of what I felt, and the apparition of that “Goddess at the ER Door,” who evoked in me a determined reclaiming of compassion as a worthy vocation, I would likely not have found the will to endure.

And were it not for pediatrics, the one area in medicine to which I felt drawn. Pediatrics was one of the first medical disciplines to contemplate the fundamental “mind-body” connection. This was a field that had always grappled with the notions of “holistic” health and family centered care, because the interacting influences of nature and nurture on a child’s growth and development were too obvious to be ignored. Physical growth and strength, resistance to disease, acquisition of language, cognition, muscle skills, and social skills, were all greatly influenced by a child’s social and emotional environment, their family and community.

In children’s hospitals, “child life specialists” were beginning to engage children in art, music, play, and clowning, with a tacit acknowledgement that positive emotional experiences could enhance healing. Our hospital child life staff included a puppeteer, who also happened to work with Mr. Rogers of public television fame, and who happened to attend my Quaker meeting. I felt a tremendous gratitude for her gentle, affectionate presence on the pediatrics wards.

Most importantly, on the pediatric wards I found I could respond to my patients’ emotional needs and express more of my emotional self. If a child needed comfort, I could pick that child up, embracing my patient without meeting the disapproval of my work culture. In pediatrics, I caught a glimpse of what a more humane practice of medicine could look like, and I knew I had found the area of medicine I wanted to pursue.

In the intervening years, medical culture has come such a long way in recognizing emotional, mental, spiritual, and social contributions to health — to both the health of our patients as well as of that of ourselves, the providers. I now practice pediatrics, that discipline within medicine which had a head start in considering the whole patient, and I continue in my recovery of my whole self, slowly but steadily regaining my sense of myself as the whole provider.

I currently practice in Ethiopia. Here I am confronted with a different challenge to my capacity for compassion: the daily exposure to suffering that comes from extreme and disabling poverty. I look into the eyes of mothers who are unable to feed their children and see desperate hope that I will offer them some form of salvation. I feel the weight of their hope in me as a burden, knowing that what I can offer is small in the face of their need. The heaviness is lightened by many happy smiles of gratitude that do come my way, still it is depressing to be present to all the suffering. I do not want to close down, to not feel, but I often want to escape, to know the luxury of not seeing.

I see other brave clinicians, courageously putting in long hours over many years of charity care here and I marvel at them. None of this is easy for me, even after a year here. I have to work consciously at sustaining spiritual energy for compassion in this context. I meditate, I journal, I practice yoga, I garden, I play the piano. It helps greatly to have a cheerleader friend, Selamawit, the administrator of the clinic in the slum, who tells me everyday, “I appreciate you.” She keeps me going. It was with great interest that I listened to an interview with Roshi Joan Halifax. Krista Tippett posed to Joan the same question she has posed in several interviews:

“We are overwhelmed with a deluge of terrible news. The pictures are too present, too vivid, the news cycle too relentless. I see photos of children in faraway places that wreck me for a day. How do we be present to that and not be overwhelmed by it?”

This is my eternal question.
For me the images are not in photos, they are people in front of me daily, and they are, like Krista’s pictures, too vivid, too relentless. I face extreme want everywhere I go, walking on the streets of my neighborhood and driving in traffic. On my daily walk to and from the vegetable market I pass a corner where a mother and toddler, both dressed in dirty rags squat every morning to beg. The mother looks at me imploringly and prods the toddler to run up to me with his palm outstretched. I offer him a few strawberries or coins.

On my bicycle route to the orphanage where I make medical rounds once a week with the nurse, I pass a mound of trash piled four feet high on the side of road. A woman’s face stares straight out from about three feet up in the heap. She sits buried within her home, a mountain of trash, and observes the world passing by. A basket in front of the heap holds the few coins that passersby have tossed to her. I bike past the local Orthodox church and see groups of ragged children waiting for what handouts of bread that might come along with the alms offered to the regular church curb beggars.

In the van that I ride once a week to the U.S. Embassy clinic where I work, I look out the windows and see a beggar standing in the street at the window of the car ahead of the van. He is barefoot and his long bare skinny legs are thin poles, nothing more than skin and bone. His hair is matted with dirt and the ragged cotton gabi, a blanket which is thrown over his shoulders and trunk, made of white hand spun cotton, is so dirty that it is blackened. Under the gabi he wears nothing. He holds out his bony hand feebly. It shakes. Crowds of people stream along the sidewalk. No one takes notice of the starving beggar.

A young woman with a baby wrapped to her back winds her way between the bumpers toward the van. She reaches the van and steps up to the side window. The baby peers over her shoulder. There are flies crawling around the upper and lower lashes of his eyes. All the riders in the van stare straight ahead. She raps on the window but no one looks at her. Begging at car windows in the street is technically illegal in Ethiopia, so the employees of the U.S. Embassy have been instructed not to give to beggars when they are riding in embassy vehicles. She moves to the driver’s window, holds her palm out and then brings it to her mouth. The driver nods to her and mouths the words, Igzeeabirh yisitiling, may God give it to you for me, and she moves on.

On my drive to the clinic in the Kolfe slum where I see pediatric patients once a week, I pass a man in a wheelchair, his legs amputated above the knee. He is wheeling his way around the a traffic circle along with the cars. He keeps to the inner edge, squeezed between the inner lane of cars and the center cement guard rail and is facing my oncoming car so that the stubs of his legs, sticking out at the edge of the chair seat, appear head on like ragged circles under his torso. His arms are muscular, his jaw determined. Just beyond the circle I have to veer around what looks like a mound of old blankets along the edge of the center cement median. Bare feet stick out beyond the ragged blanket. The mound under the blanket with the feet sticking out has lain there for the past three days and has not moved.

I arrive at the clinic, and walk into the long open corridor where mothers and children wait to be seen, and all those eyes look up at me with my rolling suitcase full of medicines and supplemental foods. They smile and greet me welcomingly, their eyes full of hopeful supplication.
On a typical clinic day I will treat children with diarrhea and parasites, pneumonia, anemia, fungal and bacterial infections of the scalp and skin, and many who are undernourished, chronically stunted in height. Many of their mothers have no income or only the tiny income that comes from gathering firewood to sell.

My patients have included a three-year-old girl with protein malnutrition whose parents had been feeding her only potatoes and rice; several two-year-olds whose upper arm diameters were not much bigger than broom handles, still breastfeeding but not eating any supplemental foods. These children qualify for the Ethiopian government’s inpatient treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition so we send them for admission.

Some children will be frightened and cranky but others are happy and playful, sensing no deprivation in their lives. The mothers are affectionate, kindly. There is much about their lives to cheer me, still it is the sadness in a mother’s eyes that will grab hold of me and haunt me.
Basic medications are very cheap here compared to in the U.S., but these parents cannot afford to buy them, so thanks to friends who contribute to a fund, I can supply them. We encourage mothers to start the babies on supplemental foods at six months (while continuing to breastfeed until two years). With the fund I am able to supply, for those who cannot afford to buy it, “Miten” a mix of 13 locally grown grains, pulses and seeds that has traditionally been used as a first complementary food.

Traditional Ethiopian crops make for a very nutritious diet. Lentils, chickpeas, teff, barley, flaxseed meal, safflower seeds, sesame seeds, carrots, cabbage, greens like collard greens all grow here. But most families living in the slum have no space to grow and cannot afford to buy these foods. They do not presently even have clean water to drink.

I found Roshi Joan’s terms in addressing Krista’s question so helpful. I see that I have experienced what she calls “empathic distress.” I have also experienced everything on her list of dysfunctional responses to empathic distress: the desire for flight, the avoidance, the moral outrage, the “vicarious trauma.”

I loved Joan’s metaphor for what it takes to survive a vocation for compassion when surrounded by suffering: buoyancy. “We need to stabilize ourselves in order to face the world with more buoyancy,” she said. Buoyancy is in fact what I need. The ability to rise up to the surface, to float, to bob there; not so much above it all, but still in it, just not drowned in it. Still able to see the sky, to breathe the air.

Hearing of her process for helping clinicians avoid dysfunctional responses to empathic distress has helped me to become more conscious of my own process, and I have incorporated some of her strategies: staying in touch with my body, “maintaining positive self regard.” I have come to see that when I am faced with a waiting room full of patients who themselves are likely hungry, it is really OK to break for a cup of tea and an oatmeal nut bar, if that is what I takes to keep me “buoyant.”

Like Joan, I have found silence to be medicine. I require a lot of silence to balance the chaos of that clinic in the slum. But the insight of the “truth of change, of impermanence” which, Joan told Krista, we come to understand when in a state of deep internal stillness, does not comfort me in this context. Joan said:

“The insight of impermanence liberates us from the futility of grief that disallows our own humanity to emerge.”

That sounds wonderful, but I wonder, would she say this if faced with a woman whose child is starving? The idea of impermanence of life does not matter in the life of a child. Now is what matters. There is such a thing as “too late,” in the life of a child. A child who is stunted by age two because of malnutrition, who is mentally dulled because of anemia, will suffer those effects for the rest of her life. Who cares about another life, a life after life, another reincarnation? The idea that we can experience liberation through understanding the impermanence of life sounds to me like one of those beautiful ideas that Jean Vanier might have been referring to when he said:

“As we share our lives with the powerless, we are obliged to leave behind our theories about the world, our dreams and our beautiful thoughts about God, to become grounded in a reality that can be quite harsh.”

Silence is medicine for me because it brings me the calm strength and focus that I need to face harsh realities. But it does not liberate me from experiencing grief over the harshness of those realities.

I also continue to contemplate Joan’s advice to “maintain distance between my self and my patient.” Everyone who offers helping advise to the helper professions speaks of the necessity of maintaining that distance. Of course there is an undeniable vast distance between my life and that of my patients here. I need no reminder to maintain physical boundaries. Like most privileged people I do so subconsciously, instinctively. I am ever faithful to my own precious privacy and health. But I do not wish to lose the ability to imagine life in my patients’ shoes, to feel what I would feel — if she were me — even though it is this empathic imagination that intensifies my pain.

I know that picking up a child, rocking her to comfort her crying, does as much if not more to alleviate my own discomfort as it does to address her suffering. But I also know that when Krista posed the question to Jean Vanier, “ How do we stand before pain?” he answered her that we do it bodily, in person, with someone in our own local world.
I realize I am comforting myself as well as these mothers and children when I give them the medicine or food they need. I could not bear to “care for” patients by writing a prescription that I knew would not be filled. I need to feel effective. I need gratification. I get it in seeing these children restored to health, beginning to grow again, and in their mothers’ pleasure at seeing them grow. I take great pleasure in seeing a child, who a month ago was sickly, irritable and underfed, now laughing and chasing me around the exam room.
Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen has said:

“To notice your joys instead of minimizing or discounting them is to become joyous. Notice joy, nourish joy, consciously take advantage of your opportunities to experience joy.”

This is the best advice I have found for surviving any work that places one in the midst of suffering. If there were not moments of joy I would be totally overwhelmed. I have to use my meditation time to dwell in that place where suffering has been relieved, and joy is on the faces of my patients. Joy is fuel for the journey.

This essay was originally submitted to the On Being blog in 2014. The author has since returned to the U.S. to practice medicine in North Carolina.

Re-Post: 7 *Quick* Essential Skills

Its always nice to have a quick reminder of a few things to be mindful of when the days, weeks, and months get busier and busier. This succinct article from Beckers is applicable to any type of leader. Be sure to not only focus on where you can improve yourself, but remind yourself of your strengths as well!

Original Article:

Written by Erin Dietsche (Twitter | Google+)  | May 27, 2016 | Print | Email

Poor leadership affects everyone. Not only does it harm managers' relationships with their employees, but it also influences the success of the management team and the organization at large.

There's no such thing as a perfect skill set, but there are a few key skills managers must possess in order to lead their teams to victory. Here are seven skills most managers lack, according to a Forbes article written by Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace.

1. Look at other perspectives. "Strong managers can see the world through someone else's eyes," Ms. Ryan writes. One of the most useful skills a manager can possess is being able to examine a situation from a different perspective, be it an employee, boss or customer.

2. Let the chips fall where they may. Instead of panicking when something goes wrong, a good leader is able to remain calm and let the situation unfold. Ms. Ryan calls this skill "allowing." Naturally, leaders can't and shouldn't ignore problems. But a strong leader will refrain from blaming others when negative situations inevitably arise.

3. Be curious. No one likes seeing their ideas shot down or noticing their attempts at creativity being ignored. Rather than immediately bringing up why a proposal might not work, a strong leader will be curious and ask questions about it.

4. Think critically. "Critical thinking means thinking beyond what we've been taught," Ms. Ryan writes. "It means looking at situations from all angles." So many managers today get caught in tunnel vision and are only able to see a set of circumstances one way. Use critical thinking skills to completely examine an issue and hunt for a new solution.

5. Fully examine problems. Ms. Ryan calls this "connecting the dots." Just as chess players plot out their moves three or four steps ahead of the game, so too should managers plan out their moves in advance. Don't look at each new scenario as a single problem to solve — fully examine each aspect of the situation and try to connect the dots.

6. Be humble. Some managers have a tendency to consistently reinforce their authority. Again and again, they remind their employees who the boss really is. But as Ms. Ryan points out, the best managers hire those who are smarter than them. Being humble and refraining from being a know-it-all can help leverage success in the workplace.

7. Coach. Rather than doling out orders every day, leaders should strive to coach their employees. Unlike commanding, coaching emphasizes listening skills. To become a better coach, leaders can ask their employees questions such as "What do you need from me?" and "What are your goals for this job?"