Message from the Chair

Oksana Buhel, CAE

Mindfulness in Association Excellence


As 2019 begins, I am consciously arranging priorities and plans to complete them successfully and with the least amount of complexity. One might say that I am mindfully arranging these priorities.

Although “mindfulness” may seem like a buzzword with a nebulous definition, there seems little doubt that those practicing it appear to derive substantial benefits from it. As I lurched through developing my own understanding of mindfulness, I gratefully discovered that “mindfulness” is quite less complex than I thought.

Mindfulness, I believe, can be defined as thinking about your thinking. It is deciding where to focus your attention, and developing conscious awareness with a detached, non-judgemental perspective. There is  a plethora of resources available online instructing how to develop mindfulness, so I’ll skip that! The benefits of acting mindfully translate easily into the association and business world. Research has shown that the benefits of mindfulness include: stress reduction; improved concentration; boosts to working memory; reduced musing; less emotional reactivity; more cognitive flexibility – the list goes on and on.

As association and business leaders, we are considered skilled at foreseeing and surmounting obstacles. Leaders face unique kinds of challenges, and managing them with a mindful perspective gives you an edge. Our role as leaders is to facilitate the advancement of the team. Mindfulness can contribute to this is by helping you to:

  1. Remain focused when team members talk to you.
    This means pulling your thoughts back from wherever they are scampering to and really hearing what the person is saying. What situations are developing which you need to be aware of? Which policies should be drafted? Judgemental thoughts which may creep in while you’re listening need to be acknowledged, and then released.
  1. Make thoughtful decisions.
    Every decision involves a certain level of judgment and emotion. As leaders, we make countless decisions every day―are you making them with your head or your heart? A mindful leader uses both. When you pause and bring awareness to your biases, judgments and emotions, you make better decisions. Do a quick mental and emotional check, make the decision and move on.
  1. Empower team members.
    When a team member comes to you with an issue or challenge, ask questions and allow them to reach their own conclusions. Compliment or reward great decisions. Use poor decisions as an improvement opportunity. Team member performance improves when team members feel empowered and trusted.
  1. Develop and maintain regular meditation practice.
    Meditation is a practice often associated with mindfulness. Our lives are busy, but meditation is worth prioritizing. Leaders can be more susceptible to stress because of the demands of authority, the loneliness of being at the top, and knowing our daily decisions can significantly affect team members. Outside of work, we have obligations to our families, communities, and ourselves. Meditating for 5-20 minutes each day can make a difference.  Martin Luther King once said that if he didn’t pray for three hours every day, he didn’t know how he’d be able to do everything he did.

The more aware we become of our thinking – where our thoughts are going, what thoughts are coming in, what influence we are allowing these thoughts to have – the more we are able to develop the capacity to accept these thoughts and, if we choose to, adjust our thinking. Then, with solid leadership skills and high-quality management practices, we can help lead our associations toward association excellence.

Oksana Buhel, CAE

Chair – CSAE Trillium