Awareness as a Vital Lesson in Leadership

By: Cheryl Pipia

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Flexing to a new environment, unlearning some of our old habits, all while adjusting to a world of unknowns. One thing I know for sure is that each one of us (and our associates) is on a different journey and that means we need to realize how little control we have in this environment. It is at the intersection of purpose and passion where we can transform to meet this new world.

As leaders, we now need to flex fully — IQ, EQ, and SQ (social intelligence quotient). Ross Honeywill believes social intelligence is an aggregated measure of self and social awareness, evolved social beliefs and attitudes, and a capacity and appetite to manage complex social change. We are definitely going through complex social change. Our awareness of self and how our direct actions impact others is paramount as we look to move forward.

We often hear of people speaking about physical wellness openly and honestly (it brings folks together!) and my mind goes to Peloton and the community that it has built — #riders. It is wonderful to see people connect and share what that physical exercise means for them and the form of mental clarity it provides.

My mission is to bring forward the importance of mental wellness — self development, awareness, and mindfulness and their proven impacts on purposeful living. I make mental wellness an integral part of my strategy online and offline to connect to people on a deeper level, to learn about them, and to ask questions.

What I am finding during this time is the conversations have key themes — “I am feeling overwhelmed,” “I do not know my value because the ‘how’ I did my job for X years has changed,” “What does success look like in this new environment?” “I feel like I don’t have control,” “I don’t want to show weakness.”

While I certainly don’t have all the answers, I am able to share the tools in my toolkit that have helped me clear my mind, helped me think creatively, and allowed me the space to be productive. Perhaps most importantly, mindfulness practices have removed self-inflicted guilt, or in some cases, others projecting their guilt (intentional or not, it is felt). This is where we have to stay curious, stay open to new ways of operating, and turn to leading with empathy.

[Related: Overcome Imposter Syndrome With This Winning Poker Strategy]

I have shared a story with folks about my time in Northern Kenya this past year. I had booked a three day trip to the Samburu to break up my time during my humanitarian work. It was going to be my opportunity to do self development work, evaluate the person I am, be in nature, and witness the Samburu spiritual dance and ceremony.

Well, that went out the window when there was a horrible rain, wiping out the dirt trails to the streets and stranding me in the tent on a mountain with nothing to do. I was frantically trying to get the travel agent to book me a return — however, there was no option because of the weather. I was sitting in the tent furious because I knew I could be doing my humanitarian work and “getting more done,” and to put it frankly, I was fighting the whole experience — and simply hated the fact that I didn’t have control over the situation.

This is when I put my mission into actual movement. I decided to transform the situation by the application of gratitude. I decided to practice a “shed moment,” as my mind and thoughts were not serving me well at all. I shifted my perspective and took the time to evaluate why I had that immediate reaction.

I learned a lot which I can’t cover here, but what happened as a result: I was open to talking with the owners of the camp, they introduced me to the Samburu tribe leaders, and by the end of the trip, I was asked by the tribe community leader if I would consider a humanitarian project in their village to help with female empowerment — a huge honor and humbling moment on so many levels.

The major lesson: Had I not let go of my “control,” I would have missed this incredible opportunity to serve and lead in a much higher capacity. The other key lesson is that by staying present, I understood that control did not serve me.

That is just one example, and I have had many happen in the business landscape, as well. I always refer to how important is for my me to have my “toolkit.” These tools include old favorites and new learnings that I want to try — all tools apply to all aspects of my life:

Segment intending: Visualize your day, break it into segments, and set your intentions.

Honoring the process: Let’s be honest — we aren’t always happy. Honor the various emotions you are feeling as they guide you through your day and week.

Shedding and growing evaluation: Now more than ever, our time is precious — evaluate how your time is being used, what can you shed (what is not serving you), and what can you grow (those areas that fuel you). There is a great deal of fatigue settling in with people.

Daily reflection: Emotions are high, triggers are high, so take time to recognize when you are being triggered and when you could be triggering another. We all have great intentions, but there is a frenetic energy that we need to move past in order to perform at our highest.

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And for those of you that may be more skeptical, I hope we are able to launch a mindful moment pilot, where we can measure how these disciplines impact the bottom line. Our objective will be to measure the following:

  • Increase productivity (self and client).
  • Inclusive culture (being vulnerable sharing experiences and redefining who we are).
  • Enabling surprises (surrendering to challenges we face to receive new opportunities/growth).

While I recognize this is a “leader’s perspective,” let’s remember everyone in the firm is a leader in some fashion — whether in how they influence others, mentor others, or are leaders with their friends and family. So let’s share our experiences with all.

Together, we can incorporate wellbeing and SQ into our conversations and leadership style. Based on a leadership call with my team, I heard a resounding: “We need to show our team,” “Lead by example,” and “Openly bring these topics into our conversations.”

This new environment of virtual work is here to stay in some shape and form — my hope is that we share our experiences, have meaningful dialogues, and support each other as we are each going through this time in our own unique way.

Be you. Be purposeful. Together we can learn from each other, empower each other, and show compassion for each other.

[Related: Release Yourself From What is Holding You Back]

Cheryl Pipia invites those around her to see all that is possible when they place their true self and empathy at the forefront of business and life strategies. Currently serving as Head of Integrated Sales at T. Rowe Price, she has led her team to more holistic strategies, connected communication, and growth mindsets that have positively impacted the bottom line. And as the Founder of the Mission & Movement Nonprofit (City Chik on a Mission), she practices what she preaches by volunteering and mobilizing for M&M communities to advocate for change.

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