CAVE GPS: A System for Mindful Leadership

It’s easy to get lost in a dark cave, so many branches and dead ends and so little light to guide your way. Wouldn’t a cave GPS be handy?

Hold onto that image. Because today’s leadership lesson uses the acronym CAVE GPS. And it serves the same purpose, guiding you through the dark and twisted world of leadership, past wrong moves and wasted effort.

C is for centering.

Today’s leader MUST develop mindfulness. The capacity to sit still and observe one’s thoughts is paramount in developing wisdom, insight, creativity, and judgment.

No longer can the leader rely on his or her intelligence, ambition and authority to move the ball down the field. Leaders must be centered, with an ability to demonstrate high levels of awareness and patience. Through centering exercises like meditation and contemplation, the real leader cultivates the inner witness, a part of the self that observes the mind objectively. From this arises critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and compassion.

Anyone serious about providing the kind of leadership that transforms cultures and people should be spending a minimum of ten minutes per day practicing some form of mindfulness meditation. If the leader is unfamiliar with a technique, there are many resources to consult, but first one must come to believe that this aspect of leadership is powerful and necessary.

A is for assessing.

Interestingly, the ability to assess a situation is tied firmly to one’s degree of centeredness. Assuming the leader has been practicing mindfulness, he or she will be in a strong position to evaluate several factors starting with his or her fitness as a leader. One’s fitness changes day by day or even moment by moment, and time must be spent in self-reflection to explore with clarity and without delusion what might be standing in the way of achieving goals and objectives. An assessment must also be conducted regarding the team as a whole, the systems in place for achievement, and the capacities of individuals on the team.

I’ve listed a dozen useful questions at the end of this article to guide the assessment process, and as with centering, this process must be conducted daily for a minimum of ten minutes, perhaps focusing on a different question each time.

V is for visualizing.

There’s nothing new about this step, although many leaders ignore it. It’s incumbent upon the leader to hold the vision for the company or group being led. It’s not enough to have a written vision statement or mission statement, and these are too easily relegated to the obscurity of a handbook, only rolled out to prove that all the “I”s are dotted. Instead, the true leader must sit quietly and regularly for a time, putting aside all demands of the current situation, and simply dream.

Especially today, with the stresses of business at an all-time high, it’s very easy to put aside working “on the business” when there’s barely enough time to work “in the business.” All great leaders know that this is the time that must be allotted for growth.

It needn’t be long, but it must be done daily. In the absence of regular visualization, priorities slowly but inevitably slip from making a difference to making a profit. If your bottom line shifts to a pure profit motive, absent a vision of what else you’re creating besides money, your work will become empty and meaningless, and while you might turn a profit, the cost to your soul and your team will be very high indeed.

E is for engaging.

There’s very little value in being a centered leader with a clear assessment of your and your team’s limitations and a compelling vision if you haven’t engaged your team in carrying it out. The problem for most leaders is that they’ve been schooled in an unworkable paradigm. Everything they’ve done up to now has been about extrinsic motivation, providing punishment and reward as strategies for compelling action. Yet all the scientific research points to intrinsic motivation as the driving force for accomplishment. If you want to engage your team in your compelling vision, you must engage their imaginations. Help them see the future that you see. Allow them to feel a sense of accomplishment in the execution of the plan. Learn about what excites them. What part are they most eager to play? What would they do within the necessary sequence of actions even if they weren’t being paid? Remember, as Dan Pink describes at the beginning of his wonderful book, Drive, Wikipedia annihilated Microsoft Encarta precisely because individuals were more willing to contribute content to the new encyclopedia just for the joy of doing it than were those being paid to curate content. As with all the steps before, make your engagement planning no less that ten minutes a day.

G is for gratitude. Cultivating a mindset of gratitude has been demonstrated to produce increased productivity, happiness, wisdom, and health. The simple act of reflecting on what’s going right rather than what’s going wrong on a daily basis can begin to shift your focus to a more resourceful mindset and result in a more harmonious workplace. Besides, sharing your gratitude with those who’ve earned it has a remarkable impact on morale. Write a few quick notes of gratitude daily, and get them in motion around your office!

P is for play.

One of the earmarks of a healthy workplace is the presence of humor and playfulness. It doesn’t take long for an outsider to conclude what sort of company you are just by reading the playfulness index of the office. When I see a dour, serious, stern energy in a company, I know immediately that this company is in trouble. And, as a consumer, I’m likely to shy away from it. It’s wise to assume that your company’s predilection for playfulness is obvious to anyone in your orbit. So, ignore this at your own risk. If playfulness is missing, there are conversations that need to be had to restore healthy priorities, conversations about things like trust, expectations, and priorities.

S is for structure.

The very last thing you should be worried about is the structure of your day and that of your employees. It’s vital that you and everyone on your team have a healthy respect for time and know how to use it in a way that’s respectful, responsible, and realistic. But, without all the other factors discussed above, a company with the structure and function of a well-tuned Swiss watch will still fall short when compared with a company that’s got its CAVE GPS working.

Simple adherence to a daily practice of awareness will enhance your leadership immensely. Using your CAVE GPS will light the way in the dark caverns of uncertainty and change, and bring about greater confidence and insight.

In less than an hour a day, you can transform your organization into a world leader in your field. It’s never a lack of work output that keeps a company stuck but rather a lack of consciousness. Time spent “on the business” as opposed to “in the business”–that is time spent developing a stronger foundation rather than merely going through the motions– is the answer to flat numbers and unhappy employees.

Now, the question is, do you have the courage to step away from the battlefield long enough to learn how to use the new weapons?

Assessment Questions…

  1. Do you have a worthy vision?
  2. Is it sustainable without compromise?
  3. How have you communicated it to your team?
  4. By what method do you evaluate their adherence to it?
  5. What’s your process for bringing them back to it?
  6. Is your environment emotionally safe? Promote transparency, authenticity?
  7. Is motivation intrinsic or extrinsic?
  8. What’s your personal commitment to meaning? Self care?
  9. How do you adhere to it?
  10. What value have you placed on presence, culturally?
  11. What is your solution for stress?
  12. What’s more important? Profit or mission?

If you’d like to take a more thorough assessment of your “unshakability” (capacity to function well under pressure) you can take Dr. Taubman’s Unshakability Quiz by clicking here.

Dr. Steve Taubman has dedicated his life to showing people how to thrive through their challenges. He’s written extensively on the application of contemplative practices in stressful situations and has spoken throughout the United States on mindset mastery for goal-oriented professionals.


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Dr. Steve Taubman

Dr. Steve TaubmanVerified account

Author, speaker, and mindfulness coach at Stevetaubman.com
Dr. Steve Taubman is a professional speaker and author of Buddha in the Trenches: The Timeless System for Developing Unshakable Performance Under Pressure. He works with companies to enhance the well being of employees and support the goals of the organization.
Dr. Steve Taubman

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