Making Mindful Decisions: Color Me Teal

In 2015, we heard the trumpets of emotional intelligence and mindfulness again and again. I would expect this to continue throughout 2016. And it should.

No one should be embarrassed or apologetic for being passionate an160029-PB-Banks-Blog-Quote_01_18_16d disciplined; rather, you should celebrate it and encourage others to do the same. We should not spend 2016 just going through the motions. If we don’t get this right as leaders, our organizations will struggle to attract the best talent, survive and grow.

I am as guilty of this as anyone. Let me share a story with you.

The limits of a closed mind

I recently read the HBR article You Can’t Manage Emotions Without Knowing What They Really Are. The article basically examines (in an almost clinical manner) the origin and impact of positive and negative feelings. It is an interesting read – but if I had come across it a few months earlier, I would have ignored it. Until recently, my definition of emotional intelligence was about “self-awareness” as it relates to my business and the broader context of society.

Truthfully, I hadn’t given much consideration to the impact of my feelings or emotions (negative or positive). I now realize I missed an opportunity for personal learning and growth by leading with emotional intelligence.

In the summer of 2015, I came across an article in strategy+business that I did not quite get: The Future of Management is Teal. You may have heard about or even read this article. But candidly, my initial reaction was, “Well, this sounds stupid” – demonstrating about as much emotional intelligence as you would expect from a 6 year old, right? Truthfully, I discounted it and didn’t even read it.

Then, on a plane in late August, I was bored to death and there it was, right in front of me again! So I read it. When I was done, I concluded I was right the first time. It seemed off the mark and I couldn’t relate to it at all. At least, that’s what I thought after reading it with a pre-conceived opinion and a thousand other things on my mind. Basically, I read it with a closed mind.

But the reality is, in the rush to do my job, I was losing the awareness necessary to grow. I was not open to new ideas if they would not have an immediate impact.

Open to possibilities

So fast forward a bit. As 2015 came to a close, I was doing my annual ritual of looking at “lists.” I love to review the best books, articles and stories of 2015. And there it was again, the “teal” article! So I reread it. I’m not sure if it was a clearer head in vacation mode, or a mind focused on greater reflection at the end of another year, but this time I saw and felt something much different.

When I read it the first time, I was blinded by my day-to-day goals, actions and adjustments – basically, my job. I have talked a lot about how a manager’s job is to keep the train on the tracks and a leader’s job is to build new tracks. I’ve also talked about how difficult it can be to stay open-minded and forward-focused when we all have real goals we have to meet each day. And I fell victim to that.

The key takeaway in the article is that organizations, by and large, are outdated. The pyramid of management decision-making is too slow, out of touch and not flexible enough. We tend to pre-label the next generation of our workforce – we hear words like spoiled, entitled, instant gratification, etc. The reality is that the majority of new talent entering the workforce is none of these things. On the contrary – they care. They want to make an impact.

Maybe they don’t want to wait in line for their turn; they would rather take a swing right now. But that’s not arrogance; it’s passion and confidence. Don’t get me wrong; new talent is just like everyone else – they need to be trained. But they should be trained in a way that embraces their passion and willingness to take a shot. With the right leadership and organizational design, the combination of it all might just give us the innovation and growth we are looking for to truly set our businesses apart from the rest.
Embracing change

I encourage you to learn from my mistake – invest the time to really read the article. Think about how you can incorporate the concept into your leadership style.

As leaders, we need to let go of the past and embrace the future of organizational design. We need to embrace the concept of self-management. But to do so will require a great amount of emotional intelligence and mindfulness, mixed with a comfort and ability to change. We need to be aware and mindful all year long, not just at the end of the year when we formalize reflection. I have made this one of my 2016 resolutions – how about you?