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The Dojo Concept

Powerful leaders practice and train

During my Inner MBA program, embodied leadership expert Richard Strozzi-Heckler invites the class to join him in a metaphorical dojo where you can raise your awareness as a leader. What's that? He explains the dojo as “a place of training and awakening.

What a creative way to look at learning: practice and training as a way of life! Practice always helps us improve and grow. After explaining how he uses the dojo conversation with his own children at home, he goes further to suggest how it can be used in workplaces. The dojo concept can be used in your organization to embody dedication toward raising awareness, and raising awareness and consciousness accelerates positive action.

Richard goes on to say the most powerful leaders have a strong awareness component. How did they get there? There's no "special sauce" or mystery here. It's practice. Practice and train just like football players in the NFL, or clarinet players in the orchestra, even when you're bored to tears, tired, too busy or distracted. Isn't that what the dojo is all about? Leaders need to practice:

  • Getting present through mindful awareness
  • Listening deeply
  • Getting connected with those who matter most

Want Some of That Calm Energy?

One story I will never forget from my days working at the hospital is an experience with a senior executive on the way to a meeting. I was telling my friend in the backseat of the van about yoga class the night before and the calm energy I felt afterwards. Even though he was far in the front of the van, he overheard.

Jim said, "Hey! I want some of that - calm energy. Tell me more."

Jim had the energy, that's for sure, but most days he was missing the calm part. That sparked a conversation about mindful awareness and how it could benefit the leadership team at the hospital, especially during times of crisis, of which there are many. Each time I met with Jim, he was more intrigued by the practice. Even though his six-figure lifestyle far outpaced my meager lifestyle, he wanted some of what I had...

Are your leaders lacking self awareness? How is the lack of self awareness affecting your business? Do your employees find purpose in their job and fully engage in their work?

In the book The Mind of the Leader, author Jacqueline Carter reports that, though competence was once the most important quality in a leader, focus has outpaced competence it as the most scarce leadership resource. What if you aren't able to maintain a calm, clear focus? That is a clear loss in productivity. There also seems to be a direct correlation between level of focus and the advancements made within a company. For aspiring leaders, she says, focus should be a daily mantra.

The Mind of the Leader also shares the science of how we are wired for distractions. The tendency to be distracted is deeply ingrained in the brain. Focus occurs in the prefrontal cortex, also the home of executive function. When we are able to operate form this part of the brain, we are more in control, can focus on the task at hand, and can communicate with more purpose and meaning.

Cultivate Self Awareness Through Practice

The light bulb fires up more when we understand how we can cultivate self awareness through mindfulness. Fortunately, we can enhance our focus through consistent practice. Enter the dojo concept. Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on what is happening in the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, with balance, graciousness, clarity, and ease. There are a variety of practices used to train.

"Training in mindfulness helps you to increase self-awareness from moment to moment, so that you are more aware about what makes you truly happy, helps you avoid compulsive reactions and replace them with more useful behaviors, and it helps you stay true to your values. These are foundational skills for leadership, being authentic, and increasing team engagement. But it does more. The more time you spend training your awareness, you come to realize that you are not your thoughts, and your thoughts are not you."

--The Mind of the Leader

Mindfulness training essentially helps you create a healthy distance from your thoughts. So many of our thoughts spark emotion and reaction but, really, many of them are random and insubstantial. Did you know, scientists estimate that 45% of our behaviors are driven by unconscious thoughts and reactions, or acting on "autopilot?" But those stray thoughts only have an impact on you if you allow them. As you can imagine, operating on autopilot is not the best way to lead.

The book One Second Ahead provides practical tips on how the practice of mindfulness has made a difference. One leader said: "Mindfulness gave me a one second gap between my thoughts and my actions. Between my impulses and my reactions. In any given situation, I can better manage myself, all because of a single second." One second could be the difference between a good or bad decision. Between engaging your team with enthusiasm or disparaging a team member in anger. Between successful innovation and drowning in problems.

The Inner MBA was developed by Tami Simon and her team at Sounds True in collaboration with LinkedIn, Wisdom 2.0 and Mindful NYU. The 9-month online program is designed to train leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, and employees on how to powerfully grow themselves and their companies incorporates mindfulness and compassion and live stream sessions with leading heart-centered entrepreneurs and business leaders.

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