Zen Leader Blog

Leadership Advice: When decisions offer no "good" outcomes.

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Mar 30, 2013 2:24:00 PM

decisionsWe've all heard the phrase, "The lesser of two evils," but sometimes leaders are faced with decisions where even the lesser of two evils is not clear. Sometimes decisions seem equally crummy in either direction, depending on your perspective. I was reminded of this while watching the news the other night, as yet another crisis evolves in the Middle East. It appears, once again, that an action by the United Nations and/or the United States will be forthcoming, and we will be judged harshly by our involvement or lack thereof.

So what do you do when faced with decisions where no one is going to be happy? It's sometimes hard not to seek out acceptance, appreciation, and validation that we are making the "right" decisions. We want our followers to stand behind us and support us, and when they don't, we can take it personally - as a slap in the face that says, "I don't trust you are doing the right thing." This is where clarity and awareness are most critical. They are how to remain clear on our intent so we make decisions that benefit the greater good. They're how we are able to weave through and not be clouded by all the voices we hear that are based in fear. They're how to find some peace ourselves, when faced with a difficult paradox.  So when you find yourself caught between rocks and hard places, here are three things that might help.


Sit and Breathe
There's only one way I know to stop all the mind chatter long enough to see through the fog: sitting meditation centered on the breath. I've recently recommitted myself to this, which has been an on-again, off-again practice for me. By paying attention to everything that's going on in and around my body, by dismissing thought as it tries to enter (or blending it with my breath), I am able to experience life as it is, non-judgmentally. This state, when practiced, can then be carried over into daily life including those times of tough decision-making. Meditate. And keep going back to it when you quit doing it. For the novice, here's a very simple guide to sitting meditation that also lets you experience the 4 energy patterns that work within you.

See the Big Picture
In the book, The Zen Leader, Dr. Whitelaw calls this "flip" From Local Self To Whole Self. What she suggests we do is to look beyond our own immediate inner circle to see all the players and, through role-playing, feel and experience the fears, challenges, advantages and disadvantages around your decision. To me, this is like viewing things from the peripheral wash of a floodlight, vs. the single beam of a flashlight. How much more we can see! Here's a helpful little guide from that chapter called From Local Self To Whole Self: Seeing All The Players, that illustrates how far-reaching our decisions really are.

Manage the Paradox
One of the most difficult challenge any leader may face is in managing a paradox that has a high emotional component to it. We see this in religious beliefs, political beliefs and cultural differences all the time. They create potential for over-reaction and under-reaction that keep us locked in the extremes of one side. "The leader who can see and show others that we're not dealing with a 'slippery slope' so much as a figure 8 of managing a healthy tension within bounds we can agree upon, moves the dialogue - and the company - to a higher level," states Dr. Whitelaw.  "The leader who can tease apart 'what exactly did we do last time that caused problems?' and identify thresholds within which we can maneuver successfully raises the bar of performance." Here's a guide to managing paradox, from The Zen Leader, that may be very helpful to you.

The toughest decisions we must make leave everyone feeling that they're not quite happy with the outcome. I was told this from a court arbitrator once, and it certainly holds true when you are managing a paradox. It's so much easier to take sides and have at least SOME of the people supporting you. But with paradox, that's not in the best interest of the company, the country or whatever collection of people you lead. Through clarity and awareness, it's easier to get through this unpleasantness. An unfaltering vision and a clear mind will help you navigate these waters.

And don't forget to breathe…

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Topics: managing paradox, meditation, the zen leader, mindfulness, whole self, awareness, Dr. Whitelaw, decision making

The easiest way to meditate - EVER!

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Nov 28, 2012 4:45:00 AM

meditating Not sure if my teachers will roll their eyes or applaud me, but I've finally hit on a time and place for meditation that seems to work well for me. Thought I'd share my experience in the hope of helping others of similar mind.

Establishing a meditation practice has been hard for me. Like most people, the demands on my time, not to mention the "importance" factor I like to put on other things, has been my biggest hurdle to overcome. I've dabbled in it for years, but after reading the book, The Zen Leader, I enrolled in a weekend program with its author, Ginny Whitelaw, at the Institute For Zen Leadership (IZL) hoping to kick start my practice. We were on the mats at 6:00 every morning. Wow - what a great experience! So I returned home, all energetic, and quickly watched my sitting, once again, dwindle over time. But persistence runs deep within my DNA, and I was determined to find a way to make this as routine as brushing my teeth. Here's how I finally made it stick:

Make it the first thing you do
I'm an early riser, with plenty of time in the AM for coffee and emails before I "officially" start my day. Deciding to sit, before I did anything else, was the time slot I needed - just like when we were at the dojo at IZL. The mind is a lot quieter in the morning, which helps to reduce all the chatter. But more importantly, there's nothing yet on my plate when I first wake up to distract me. And I am SO easily distracted!

Sit in bed
Speaking of distractions, just the simple act of walking to another room can get my mind starting to churn around the upcoming day's events. So I decided to sit right where I was - in bed (OK… maybe there was a comfort factor in play here as well:-) I take one of my many extra pillows and fold it under my bottom to give me the perfect cross-legged triangle. My mattress instantly becomes a gigantic sitting cushion. I can even toss some covers over my legs to keep my feet warm! "This is awesome!" I say to myself the first time I tried this. Why didn't I think of this before?

Do it for 20 minutes
Don't try and over do it - you'll discourage yourself. Twenty minutes is plenty of time each day to start reaping the benefits of meditation. If you count each breath up to 20, with a long, slow, exaggerated exhale for each one, you can do about 3-3.5 sets of these in 20 minutes. Since you ARE in bed, I suppose you could set your alarm. LOL But it won't take long for your body to automatically know when 20 minutes has passed.

Do yoga as a supplement to your sitting
Meditation is not just a few minutes of your day where you quiet the mind. It's a practice that helps you cut through the clutter, see a bigger picture and make decisions fearlessly. Doing yoga is great supplement to sitting, as it is another breath practice with similar benefits, plus an added one - it's good for your body. Yoga increases flexibility, strength and balance. It integrates the body into a mindful practice that sitting alone doesn't do for me. The incredible thing is that yoga changes me mentally, too. I eat better and take better care of myself when I am doing it on a regular basis. Yoga is a great example of how the body can change the mind.

There are many books that can teach you how to meditate, but where they often fail is in showing you how to establish a practice that is suitable for a chaotic life outside a monastery. This is how I did it. You may also download a free mediation guide to help you get started. I'll be thinking about how many others are joining me on their own pillow-top cushion tomorrow morning. Strike that - I'll think about it AFTER I sit:-)

Gassho and Namaste!
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Topics: meditation, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw, Institute for zen leadership, easiest way to meditate, mindful practice, meditation practice

The Zen Leader Animated.

Posted by Anthony Attan

Sep 10, 2012 2:49:00 PM

Check out this animated video explaining why we might want to flip around our sense of self, and how it's possible.

 

look-inside-the-zen-leader
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Topics: zen, zen leader, meditation, zen leadership, the zen leader, the zen leader book, mindfulness

Mindfulness and Well-Being: Another Trend or an Evolved Practice?

Posted by Anthony Attan

Jul 9, 2012 12:55:00 PM

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Topics: zen, energy, meditation, zen leadership, the zen leader, the zen leader book, flips, mindfulness, well-being

3 Common Myths about Zen and Why Zen Helps Leaders

Posted by Ginny Whitelaw

Apr 10, 2012 4:12:00 PM

I’ve heard these myths many times, but today I found all 3 of them in the same article.  So here goes…

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Topics: zen, zen leader, leadership, leadership development, meditation, zen leadership, whole leadership, the zen leader, the zen leader book, flips

Zen Leadership and a Happy New Year

Posted by Ginny Whitelaw

Jan 5, 2012 11:32:00 AM

The benefits of Zen leadership to the world and to yourself are abundant, but let’s start with one: an unconditionally happy New Year. To be masters of our happiness is an inside out choice – a flip from reacting to life to being a part of it and wholly owning our play. And when we make that flip, to quote the Zen koan, “Every day is a good day.”

download-free-meditation-guide
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Topics: zen, zen leader, meditation, managing energy, happiness

Zen Leadership and a Happy New Year

Posted by Ginny Whitelaw

Jan 5, 2012 10:46:00 AM

The benefits of Zen leadership to the world and to yourself are abundant, but let’s start with one: an unconditionally happy New Year. To be masters of our happiness is an inside out choice – a flip from reacting to life to being a part of it and wholly owning our play. And when we make that flip, to quote the Zen koan, “Every day is a good day.”

download-free-meditation-guide
more

Topics: zen, zen leader, meditation, managing energy, happiness

Zen Leadership and a Happy New Year

Posted by Ginny Whitelaw

Jan 5, 2012 10:29:00 AM

The benefits of Zen leadership to the world and to yourself are abundant, but let’s start with one: an unconditionally happy New Year. To be masters of our happiness is an inside out choice – a flip from reacting to life to being a part of it and wholly owning our play. And when we make that flip, to quote the Zen koan, “Every day is a good day.”

download-free-meditation-guide
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Topics: zen, zen leader, meditation, managing energy, happiness

Welcome to the Zen Leader Blog

Posted by Ginny Whitelaw

Jan 5, 2012 9:06:00 AM

Why Zen leadership and why this blog? Zen and leadership belong together. Zen brings leadership to its enlightened best, without the fears and smallness of ego getting in the way. Conversely, leadership brings Zen into the world where it can do the most good.  Zen Leadership is not some model “out there” for you to emulate.  Rather it is your own boundless, creative nature expressed in a way that adds value and inspires others to a better place. The Zen leader in you emerges through what I call “flips” in consciousness that transform your sense of self from separate to connected and, ultimately, one-with-everything.  Along the way, these flips radically reframe leadership, for example from coping to transforming, from driving results to attracting the future, from the confusion of delusion to whole and awakened leadership.

TZLCover
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Topics: zen, zen leader, leadership development, meditation, zen leadership

Welcome to the Zen Leader Blog

A blog that transforms:

This blog is dedicated to the concepts described in the book The Zen Leader by Ginny Whitelaw.  In this blog we discuss how these concepts are applied to a variety of current situations and applications, helping us all unleash the Zen Leader within us!

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