Autopilot: Switched off

Autopilot by Elliot P.

As an entrepreneur with a growing business it is easy to spend your entire day focusing your time and energy toward moving the needle – whatever your measures of success might be. Along these lines it is easy to forget that in order to effectively link your strategy with execution, you must always be thinking about building a culture that will facilitate effectiveness, and not just mindlessly managing the next deliverable from your list of key initiatives.

Let’s be clear: Mindlessness is not a failing of cognition per se, but rather a failing of attention leading to a restricted flow or worse still, the capturing of misinformation. Sound familiar? It should, as this phenomenon diminishes our effectiveness as managers, parents, friends, and learners. If you think this concept is frivolous, think about the consequences of inattention during an important negotiation. Presence counts, and should be developed among managers and staff continually.

In the Winter 2008 issue of Rotman Magazine (PDF), there is a brief interview with renowned psychologist Ellen J. Langer in which she describes “automacity” as effortlessly performing mundane daily tasks without conscious procedures. Langer went on to describe what she termed “mindfulness” as the improved awareness in a situation where ambiguity is embraced as an opportunity to live in the moment and gain deeper understanding of the event before you. This, instead of the common approach of pre-judging an event to combat the chaos of possibilities confronting the mind, thereby missing the opportunity to better understand the person in front of you, or simply to fully immerse yourself in the activity.

So think carefully the next time you are tempted to check your BlackBerry during a meeting and remember: as organizational leaders, you are setting an example for the culture that will follow from your actions or inattention. If this is a problem for you, check out the work of Ed Hallowell to understand the consequences of ADHD.

“Be here now” — simple words I recall from a friend and mentor are indeed worth heeding if one wants get the most from life and all of its facets. It’s a work in progress for me, but I’m getting better at being present and turning the autopilot off.