By Stacia Kuceyeski (Class of 2012)
Managing staff is difficult and being an effective leader is more than just showing up. It’s hard work and, I believe, rooted in self-reflection. Over the past few years, I have been slowly transforming my leadership practice with a more mindful approach. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes, well, not so much, but that’s why it’s called practice.Some time ago, I attended a meditation class led by Dandapani, a Hindu priest, speaker on self-development, and entrepreneur. He had a very practical approach I loved and many moments have stuck with me. For example, I’m sure most of us have heard of the multitasking myth, but we still do it. Eating lunch, listening to voicemail, texting, and replying to email all at the same time is just a given, right? Dandapani spoke about doing one thing at a time. Someone asked how he does it and he answered something along the lines of “well, I do one thing, I finish it, and then I start something else.” Straightforward, simple, although not easy. Yeah, I’m going to like this guy.
After the class, I got to thinking: how does this manifest in my own life? Based on some other points in the class and some self-reflection, I decided to be more conscious of my cell phone use when I was in meetings with staff. What message does it send when I’m in a one-on-one with an employee and I’m messing around with my phone? It sends a message that the person sitting across from me is not important and their time is not as valuable as the text, Facebook notification, or cat photo I just received.
But it’s not true! We have truly amazing people in our organization who deserve my undivided attention. So in meetings with staff, I consciously put the phone away and actually engaged with them completely. I told my direct reports (who also manage people) I was going to do this and I needed them to help keep me honest. And they noticed the difference. And we talked about it. And then they started doing it with their staff because they saw how it made them feel differently. I can’t believe it—leading by example works! Of course, I still have to practice this and make it a priority, but I have seen the results. I feel more connected to staff, meetings are more productive, and I am able to pick up on subtleties I would have missed otherwise.
The meditation class was such a shift in thinking for me that, in 2015, I went on a spiritual adventure to India with Dandapani, came back, enrolled in yoga teacher training, and received my RYT-200 certification in December 2015. Between my time in India and yoga teacher training, my leadership practice shifted significantly. The cell phone use is just one, although not insignificant, way.
Why bring this up in conjunction with SHA? Because SHA isn’t the end. For many of us, it was just the beginning. We took time away from work and our personal lives to become better leaders for our field, and we owe it to the program and our classmates to continue that work for ourselves.
This happened for me through more intense introspection and a more devoted yoga practice. I don’t mean just the physical practice of yoga; I’m constantly trying to bring the tenants of the practice, particularly mindfulness and compassion (for myself and others), into my leadership practice.
So what about you, SHA alums? What was your next step in your leadership development?
Stacia Kuceyeski (Class of 2012) is Director, Outreach at Ohio History Connection.