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Jeanne Stevens is the founding and co-lead pastor of Soul City Church in Chicago, one of America’s fastest growing urban churches. A sought-after speaker, leader, and writer, Jeanne’s passion is to help people wake up to their purpose as they pursue a life of wholehearted freedom. Jeanne’s new book What’s Here Now? offers a transparent, hope-filled guide to anyone who wants to stop rehashing the past and rehearsing the future — and start receiving the present. Here, she shares five ways to stop pretending and start being more authentic at work.
Practice Being Present
Location, Location, Location is a well-known real estate mantra used when buying and selling a home. But what if the phrase could be reclaimed as a leadership mantra to help us learn how to be present in our leadership. We’ve probably all been in a meeting, and as the meeting progressed, the level of presence in the room began to wane. People started checking their phones, laptops opened, and it was evident it was not to take notes. Or maybe it happened to you. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a conversation with someone, and your mind drifted back to a problem you were trying to solve earlier in the week, or you started thinking about the call you have in a few hours. Your body is present, but every other part of you is in a different location.
With all we have walked through the past few years, most of the leaders I know are struggling to be present. Honestly, it sounds like a simple problem to solve; what’s so hard about being in the here and now? The problem is that most of us don’t know how to do it. We have learned how to unconsciously or habitually react by forming thoughts and judgments without knowing what we are sensing, feeling, or thinking. We are living and leading on autopilot. We’re here, but not really here. And in the process, we become disconnected from what is really happening in our lives — disconnected from our bodies, hearts, and minds. Living in What Was or all of our What Ifs, we forget how to be here in what is. All of that disconnection eventually spills out in how we lead.
Leadership is often a function of learning how to ask the right question at the right time. One of the best ways to start reflecting on where you are and practicing presence in your leadership is to ask yourself, What’s Here Now? It’s a location question. It’s a way to help you pay attention to where you are and then come back to the present moment. Thankfully it’s a question you can ask yourself anytime and anywhere.
You can simply pause, breathe, and check in with yourself by asking,
What’s Here Now?
What am I sensing in my body?
What am I feeling in my heart?
What am I thinking in my mind?
As you notice and name your body sensations, feelings, and thoughts, you can be sure if Blame, Shame, Unprocessed Grief, Bitterness, or Guilt show up, you are rehashing the past. And if you find yourself facing worry, denial, pretending, obligation, or wanting to control a situation, you are rehearsing the future. And if you are willing, you can allow the sensations, thoughts, and feelings to serve as an invitation to come back to the present moment. To practice being here and now, because If it’s not happening now, it’s not happening.
Leaders set the tone for their culture. A present leader is a peaceful leader that knows how to lead with healthy power. They can connect authentically, build confidence in others, and inspire people to action. Present leaders instill trust in big and small ways as they pay attention, listen with sincerity, and offer authentic care to the people they lead.
WHAT’S HERE NOW? This is one of the most important questions every leader needs to ask and answer. If you don’t know where you are now, it will be hard to figure out how to get to what’s next.
Practice Clearing Stories
It is natural and normal to have misunderstandings and challenges with one another, but so much tension persists in the workplace when we don’t practice cleaning up our conflicts. One of the best ways to practice wellness with one another is by clearing our stories. Usually, a story forms from suspicion. And when suspicion occurs in our thoughts, that’s the perfect moment to check out your story and ask yourself — “Is this true?” Often, it’s just a story or suspicion that you can practice letting go of. But if the confusion or frustration persists in your mind, the next best step is to go and clear it up with the person. When we become people who practice clearing our stories, the relational and emotional culture of the organization gets better and healthier.
My favorite 15 minutes every week is during our All Staff Monday Meeting. We always take the first 15 minutes of the meeting to celebrate each other. We celebrate the wins and successes in the organization, milestones and birthdays, when someone gets married or has a baby, when someone has learned something, and maybe things didn’t go as planned, but good growth occurred. Basically, if there is cause for celebration, and even if there isn’t, we find a reason to celebrate. Becoming an organization that practices celebration has been critical in strengthening our culture. What gets celebrated gets repeated. The best employers ensure celebrations are a constant and everyday feature of the workplace. Whether that’s an email shout-out or donuts welcoming a new team member — celebration creates happier employees. Having a culture of celebration boosts morale; it increases team building and increases motivation for everyone to offer their best.
Practice Perspective Shifts Through Location Shifts
One of the best ways to increase wellness in your workplace is to shift your perspective. I have always appreciated the thoughts of Mary Engelbreit when she says, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change how you think about it.” One of the best ways to change how you think about something is to look at it from a different perspective. Change up meeting schedules, turn a few meetings into walking meetings, or invite additional people into the room to look at a problem from a different angle. Shifting location often helps to shift perspective.
Practice Empathetic Listening
The desire of every person is to be seen and known, and one of the best ways we can offer that gift is to listen well. Learning to become an effective and empathetic listener always increases understanding in the workplace. Demonstrating empathetic listening is critical to emotional intelligence. It improves our interactions and helps us better understand the people we work with.
Empathic listening involves good eye contact, undivided attention, and intentional questions. This kind of listening goes beyond the literal and even beyond the subtext of what’s been said to the emotion beneath it. When we offer empathy in our listening, we choose to really receive the perspective of and feel another person’s emotions. It always us to have a genuine human interaction that builds trust and safety in the workplace.
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Jeanne Stevens is the founding and co-lead pastor of Soul City Church in Chicago, one of America’s fastest growing urban churches. A sought-after speaker, leader, and writer, Jeanne’s passion is to help people wake up to their purpose as they pursue a life of wholehearted freedom. Jeanne’s new book What’s Here Now? offers a transparent, hope-filled guide to anyone who wants to stop rehashing the past and rehearsing the future — and start receiving the present.