I have noted a characteristic in many of the more creative people I know: mindfulness.
These individuals have a propensity to see what most miss. They take note of things, perhaps small, but to them meaningful that most of us – absorbed in our own world of to-do lists, habits, worries, and thoughts – walk right past.
MindSet has started encouraging our clients to become more mindful of their surroundings and the uniqueness of people they work with. For example, our active listening training emphasizes the ability to focus a HUGE percentage of your cognitive capacity on just two things: what is the person with whom I am interacting thinking and feeling right now. Gee, that sounds easy; gosh, is that ever hard.
MindSet has also been building a Selection Criteria Listing that we believe will help organizations better identify those members of their staff who exhibit traits that suggest they are good candidates for a leadership path. This ability (or willingness) to be mindful is just one of the indicators we believe to be predictive of leadership success.
Jon Pearson is a great friend and colleague who we often rely on to help infuse MindSet insights into the cultural bloodstreams of our clients, and I have enjoyed and benefited from his rare talent and creativity for almost two decades. His fulltime role is Director of Creativity at QLI – the nation’s premier post-hospital rehab center that (not by coincidence) is the quintessence of a fantastic workplace. In addition to Jon’s leadership at QLI and his involvement with MindSet, he also has two absorbing passions: playing blues harmonica and stunning, character-catching photography.
I recently had a conversation with Jon about his creative interests and how they might relate to his success in his role as a leader. I think you will like reading his thoughts, and I know you will enjoy taking some time to look at a sampling of Jon’s wonderful photography – a link is provided at the end of this posting.
Kim: You have some significant interests and talents beyond your leadership role, Jon. How, if at all, do you see your creative impulses relating to your success as a leader?
Jon: Well, that is a huge question, but here are a couple quick thoughts…
I find that with both music and photography, a lot of people who would like to be good at them underestimate just how much effort it takes to get there – and they assume those who are good have gotten there more on talent than by work. Well, talent certainly plays a part, but what most don’t see is the amount of work those artists have put in to excel. I think leadership is much the same way – a lot of people simply don’t understand the amount of effort and openness to learning and coaching it takes to become a good leader. Leadership did not come naturally to me – I needed to work hard to acquire whatever skills that I have gained – and a major part of that was through MindSet.
Secondly, I have never really enjoyed doing set things, and that includes my involvement with music and photography. Some musicians love being part of a band playing predetermined sets; some studio photographers get great results spending an hour setting up one family portrait shot they have envisioned. These types of musicians and photographers almost always have outstanding technical knowledge. There is no question: they know their craft!
In my case, I have always been drawn to the more spontaneous aspects of music and photography. I like blues sets where the music is free-flowing and goes where the sprit leads – and no two sets are ever the same. With my camera, I am drawn to what is known as street photography – a style capturing normal people interacting with the world around them. Blues sets and street photography also require a good amount of technical knowledge, but they are driven by an awareness of the present. I think this is really close to what I have often heard you emphasize in MindSet leadership sessions about the importance of developing an ear and an eye for the moment in front of us.
I think many of my set musician and studio photographer friends would make good managers, but I am not sure they would be natural leaders – at least not in the sense MindSet tries to encourage our clients. To create and protect the culture MindSet envisions requires the technical knowledge of leadership that MindSet teaches plus an ability to notice and react in the moment when leadership opportunities arise. When you can blend knowledge of sound leadership techniques with a keen awareness of the present…well, I think you will see pretty good results.
Okay – take a few minutes to look at more of Jon’s photography. Let the photos take you into a world you may have missed, and I hope it will encourage you to look a bit more deeply at what you may be racing past. I suspect your life may be enriched, and your pathway to success enhanced, if you notice more of the stunning things – and remarkable people – who are around you every day.