Becoming a Mindful Manager: Unlocking Leadership Excellence

Become a More Mindful Manager and Watch Your Employees Thrive

Every moment matters. Whether you’re working on growing your business, attending Zoom meetings, managing employee issues, juggling day-to-day tasks, or navigating personal scenarios – every moment matters. By the end of your day, you’ve hardly accomplished anything on your morning to-do list, yet you can barely remember what you did all day! You’re not alone.

One way to combat this schizophrenic feeling is to practice mindfulness. defines mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening around us.”  Mindfulness can help slow things down and redirect our focus on the things that are most important, instead of getting lost in the things that are urgent and in front of us constantly.

Remaining mindful in a management role can be challenging to many. That is where the mindful manager or leader comes in. This leadership approach allows you to focus your full attention on each project at any given time. Research tells us that humans spend almost 47% of their day focused on something other than the task at hand. Yet, as leaders, we need to absorb and retain more information than ever AND make good decisions. This is no easy feat.

There is good news! Mindfulness exists within everyone; some of us have just better developed mindfulness “muscles” through practice. Our forms of practice may vary by lifestyle, schedule, region, or even current events. Many use formal meditation techniques, while others pause and observe the moment.

Here are some ways to stay focused and be a mindful manager:

  • Start your day with a 2-minute breathing exercise before you get out of bed or look at your phone. Did you know humans release the most cortisol (stress hormone) within minutes of waking? Simply thinking of the day ahead causes an immediate dump of cortisol into our blood.
  • When you’re ready to start your workday, spend 5-10 minutes to focus on your mindfulness. Close your eyes, sit upright, and breathe. Focus on your breathing and note distractions by allowing them to pass and returning your focus on your breathing. The rest of your day will be chaotic, so enjoy these few minutes to yourself.
  • Consider blocking time on your calendar for focus/project work or your lunch break. Stay true to those time periods and ensure that others know these time blocks are important to you. Exceptions should be just that, but don’t allow them to become the norm. Use your DND during this time to help eliminate the distractions of email or TEAMS alerts.
  • Be respectful of your start and stop time. Again, this is more challenging to practice than it is for me to type, but on the days when work can wait and life is calling – make sure to shut down and enjoy!
  • Say no. It’s okay to say no when your plate is too full. In fact, when used respectfully, your colleagues will understand that your saying no is more about saying, “I can’t give this my all at this time,” and they will understand.
  • Understand that being aware and being mindful aren’t synonymous. Being aware is the ability to recognize distractions (and ultimately let them go), while being mindful is about developing our mind, focus, empathy, and relationships and applying them as situations arise that typically result in a personal reaction.
  • Practice being mindful while walking to your next meeting or grabbing that cup of coffee. This becomes increasingly more effective as our brains tire as the day progresses. A quick mental reset will help fight off the mental autopilot and allow for better focus as you close your day.

Mindfulness for remote leaders

For remote leaders, it can be even more challenging to create the pause needed to practice your mindfulness. Here are some additional ideas that could help:

  • Try to separate your workspace from your living space. The separation will allow you to “walk away,” focus on your breathing, and let the workday slip away.
  • Move your body! It’s so easy to stay sedentary in a home office. Walk to the mailbox or up and down your stairs to get your body moving.
  • Have a virtual coffee chat with a colleague – practice being mindful of your conversations instead of focusing on your next meeting agenda.

You must make yourself mentally present to engage with employees. Take time every day to work within the same space as them. For remote employees, working in the same physical space presents some obstacles, but you can still work with them via screen share, video call, or a simple TEAMS check-in to see how they are doing. Feel free to ask for feedback on new policies or suggestions for time management processes or to ask them to sit in on a meeting with you to learn about a new approach.

Show employees your appreciation.

Even if yearly bonuses are outside the budget, you should still find a way to personally thank each team member for what they do. Spending five minutes connecting with an employee can be more valuable than impersonal gifts. Make these things a habit:

  • Listen without allowing your brain to start drumming up a response.
  • Ask questions or take notes to stay focused, especially when asking for feedback. It is crucial not to allow distractions to creep in too often, but it’s okay to call that out and ask to reset if you find yourself distracted.
  • End all conversations positively and recap what you will follow up with them on in the future. Then, be sure to follow up!
  • Reach out to celebrate a win at least once each week. Let your employees know that you appreciate their dedication to the team.
  • Once you know your team styles, you could use public settings to acknowledge the team or to call out a specific employee accomplishment. Think: All-hands, town halls, or department meetings.

What are some rewards becoming a mindful manager?

  • Reduced stress levels: starting your day with focused breathing exercises delays the cortisol dump in the morning. By staying in the present and focusing on what’s in front of you, you remove the stress of becoming hyper-fixated on past events (or, worse yet, those that haven’t occurred!). Address the challenges as they occur.
  • Increased attention to details: removing outside distractions to the best of your ability will allow you to pick up on minor details missed when we’re not present.
  • Better relationships: Being present and mindful in your conversations with your colleagues will help you connect on a deeper level and build trust at a foundational level.

An excellent manager can listen well, communicate effectively, and learn from his or her environment and employees. Incorporate these mindful manager tips into your routine to see a difference in how employees respond to management.