I just finished the book “Mastery of Self” by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. It was a terrific book. It talks about how we get caught up in the illusion of life based on our environmental conditioning rather than living life. What I want to share from this book here about leadership and mentoring is a snippet of what the book contains. As I was reading the book, I kept on thinking “how often am I taking the people who I mentor and lead for granted?” I kept on wondering am I not recognizing people because business conditioning has put this idea that “it is what we are supposed to do or that it is our job”? I hope what I share here gives you pause and make you reevaluate how you mentor and lead your people.

We do things by default. It is one of the greatest skills or inherent characteristics of humans. It makes things so efficient. When we know our task and are skilled at something, it rarely registers on our consciousness when we are faced with routines. Think of the last time you drove home. In all likelihood you did not even notice how you got home. You listened to music, even used your hands free (of course) devise to be on a call or send text messages.  It keeps us going and productive. But is it always good to be on autopilot?

Don Miguel Ruiz points out that we are living in the illusion of life most of the time. We are moving about on autopilot. That struck a chord with me. One of the exercises in his book, Mastery of Self was to do things that are routine in a different way. For example, brushing my teeth with the opposite hand. Well, I tried it. Even though I use an electric toothbrush, it was uncomfortable. I had to exert allot of attention so I would not switch hands in mid stroke. It totally put my attention in the NOW. It not only did that at the moment, but because I was doing the exercise to be in the present, it kept me in the now for a few minutes after the task was done. Then I lapsed into the routine of driving to work.

What does all this have to do with success and leadership? I started to think about how many times leaders take their people for granted. It is after all their job to do their jobs right? No really. Another book I am very fond of, the 1 Minute Manager has taught me that “catching people doing the right thing” is the best way to teach a wanted behavior or trait in business atmosphere. So, when people are taken for granted and their work in the now is never seen, evaluated, or praised, leaders are missing multiple opportunities to shape, and mentor their colleagues in the behavior of success. Doing things, we normally do in a different way will focus our attention on the now. Maybe for just a few minutes, a leader will notice something great in their people that otherwise would have been missed as “doing their job”. How cool would that be.

I would take it a step further and suggest before doing performance appraisals or mentorship sessions do some routine tasks in a different way. Maybe if you cross your hands with the left thumb on top, put the right thumb on top. Maybe if you drink your coffee with your right hand, do it with the left hand. Anything to focus your attention in the now, so you are focused in the now when you are mentoring or leading your people. I wonder how much more productive the session would be. Only you can answer that, I wish you would share your finding by commenting on this post.

That is it. Short and sweet. The altering of habits really made me think about the now. That made a profound impact in how I perceive the routine comfort zone I previously autopiloted through. I hope this article was productive for you. As always, I wish you great success.