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Tiana was trying her best to maintain eye contact with the woman who was rambling on about homemade cookie recipes, and fight the temptation to look around and see who else was at the open house.

“A lot of people don’t like raisins,” the woman was saying, “but I do. I think they give an extra pungency and texture to a cookie. People need to give raisins a second chance.”

Tiana nodded. “Yeah. Even raisins deserve a second chance. By the way, what do you think of the house?”

“It’s beautiful,” the woman said with a mouthful of cookie.

Tiana, a 29-year-old sales manager for a large residential contractor, earned her job through a demonstrated ability to multi-task and get more done in a single day than most of her colleagues accomplished all week, While her team’s numbers continued to be strong, Tiana noticed her stress levels were rising month over month as well. And a couple of her employees, including one of her top producers, recently complained to Tiana that she “wasn’t fully there” when they were asking her questions or seeking her help problem-solving something.

The day after the open house Tiana shared this feedback she’d received with Taylor, the 33-year-old food supervisor of the cafe in the office complex where Tiana worked. Taylor often poked gentle fun at Tiana because she was always looking at her phone while standing in line to order lunch and when sitting down and eating. They’d become friends, at least when Tiana was in the cafe.

“You eat so fast, I bet you don’t even taste the food,” Taylor said. “And it’s damn good food; I should know cause I make it. You gotta stop and notice what you’re actually doing. That cuts down the stress and makes you better at your job and better with people.”

“I know, I know,” Tiana said, purposefully chewing her grilled cheese sandwich a little slower since she knew Taylor was watching. “We just move so fast at my office. There’s constant change. And since I’m a leader, I’ve got to stay on top of it. I’m not sure how much my team realizes that.”

“Take the time to explain it to them,” Taylor said. “They want to understand you more, and they want to know you understand them. You can’t rush that. You gotta invest the time to show you care, and you’ll get that time back later.”

“I hear you, I hear you,” Tiana said, washing down her latest bite with a sip of iced tea.

Change Leadership and Mindfulness

Because change is constant (not just in real estate but in every industry), it demands agility, which involves resiliency and persistence while making quick adjustments and responses.

But change leaders don’t just move faster and multi-task, That’s not the intent of agility.

Instead, as Tiana was beginning to learn, agile change leaders speak with clarity as they advocate for change. They’re deliberate as they guide the change action steps and new processes or tools. Furthermore, such leaders demonstrate agility by constantly fine-tuning and adapting their vision of how the change will make things better.

And that involves investing quality time with people.

As Josh Bersin notes, great leaders drive change “through their reputation, ability to empower people, willingness to experiment, and focus on developing” their employees. I can’t think of any leader who does that well while rushing about, unfocused, only half-hearing others, and handling too many things at once.

Many professionals find slowing down and focusing on one thing to be counter-intuitive. Along with their lunch food, they’ve been eating a diet of “mindless frenzies” and “getting more stuff done.”

This alternative approach is a mindfulness habit. Mindfulness is the practice of becoming more fully aware of, and attentive to, what’s taking place within and around you. It’s focus and concentration on steroids, with a big dosage of stress reduction. Mindful change leaders foster closer relationships with their employees and peers, and create clearer strategies on leveraging resources such as algorithms that can gather targeted customer data, improve processes, and drive sales.

Growing Your Strengths

I’m a Nashville-based writer, talent strategist, and certified executive coach. On this website, I primarily write stories featuring a diverse group of professionals whose examples of applying mindfulnesslearning agility, and storytelling will help you love your career and enhance your quality of life.

These characters face familiar pain points: nonstop change, accelerating economic and technological disruption, and the collective “noise” that grows louder each day. The impact, for these professionals and for many of us, has been confusion, distraction, and stress.

Until, however, each of these individuals chooses to do something new: practicing mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling habits, and growing them into strengths…strengths that respond to change rather than just react.

Strengths that you can develop as well.

Don’t settle for the confusion, distraction, and stress. You’re stronger than that, and capable of much more.

Choose to do something new. Today. Start with this post, check out my books, and join our learning community to receive exclusive content each month with timely guidance on applying mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling.

John M. DeMarco is a writer, strategist, and executive coach based in Nashville, Tennessee.
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