Mindful leadership is not only an effective way of managing others, but also in managing one’s own needs. In this episode, Alicia Dunams welcomes Dr. Keren Tsuk, the founder & CEO of Wisdom to Lead. Dr. Keren talks with Alicia about how we could do everything together when we are present with our humanity. Be there for your employees, listen to them, and feel their feelings. You’ll be surprised to see how they will open up to you and how teamwork becomes natural. We need to integrate mindful leadership in our workplaces now more than ever. So tune in and become a mindful leader today!
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Mindful Leadership With Dr. Keren Tsuk
I’m very excited to announce our next guest. Her name is Keren Tsuk, PhD. She is a sought-after speaker, consultant, and thought leader in 21st century leadership. Keren is the Founder of consulting firm Wisdom to Lead. She specializes in the development of senior management teams and corporate leadership. She guides companies and senior management teams to reach their fullest potential using various techniques in the field of mindfulness. It’s so important. In her book, Mindfully Wise Leadership: The Secret of Today’s Leaders, she seeks to revolutionize the process by which leaders manage their organizations and people. Keren, it’s so great to have you here.
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure. I’m looking forward to our conversation.
I’m looking forward to jumping in because what you are doing is bringing mindfulness principles to organizations, management and teams. Before we even get started, I would love to ask you the question, Keren, why did you write a book?
My story began when I started being a consultant and working with the corporate world and organizations. I always felt that something was missing. I felt a little bit abused of the employees and felt that they were not being seen. Something was missing for me in the corporate and business world. I decided to conduct research about the new leadership. My leading question is, “What is the role of leaders nowadays in leading financially successful organizations, alongside motivating their employees for meaningfulness intrinsic motivation to enable them to fulfill themselves to be creative and for the organization to be innovative?”
I found that mindfulness is a crucial element. I understood that I was going to convert the PhD into a book because my vision is I have a dream that the organization will be a platform for humanity development. It will embrace the PPP paradigm, the new paradigm of People, Planet, Profit. It enables the employees to flow with the community and will serve the community and the employees. This is my story. I was attending a Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. I remember that when I decided to write this book, my Zen teacher told me, “Take your hard copy PhD and go find a publisher.”
I decided that I’m going to take the hardcover of 300 pages PhD in my suitcase to put my intention for the book. It was a funny story because, at the end of the conference, which was interesting about the new leadership, the facilitator told us, “Divide into pairs and do an exercise.” What amazed me was that the woman sitting next to me was an editor who converted PhD into books. I understood it was about time to do it, and this gave me the trigger to continue.
It’s very kismet in terms of bringing that and manifesting it. That was your intention. You carried it with you. I love how you were paired with the person, the editor who transformed PhDs into books. That’s fantastic.
We need to find the flexibility to make hybrid workplaces work for people.
When it was assigned to me, it was about time to do it and go with it.
Tell us about the process. Was she the person who supported you in taking a PhD or was she a sign from the universe to go in that direction?
She was a sign from the universe. She was interested in doing it and we started. We didn’t continue with it but she was the trigger to continue with it. I found the editor in Israel, and we started the process. It was such a dream for me. It began with the PhD. The book is the conversion of the PhD and more stories for many years of experience. It’s a nice story. I remember when they called from the university to say that the PhD was approved, I was so happy and already in the introduction.
I started dancing with my kids. I put on music, and we started dancing. There was a point when my son asked me, “Mommy, why are you so happy?” I told him, “This is how you feel when dreams come true.” For me, the book is an extension of my dream because now it’s going global worldwide. I’m excited about it because I believe it’s the new tool that we need nowadays until the Coronavirus. It was nice to have. Now, we all need to embrace these tools to not only survive but also thrive in these uncertain times.
You talked about people, the planet and profit. With the pandemic and the complete shift of the workplace is happening, we are seeing in front of our eyes that people are choosing not to go back to work. I know in the United States, there are mandates in terms of vaccines. Some people are using that as a way not to go back to work and choose something, whether it’s working from home or online. It’s different political beliefs and value systems.
What we are seeing is a complete shift in how we work in centralized areas like in the office or what have you because the Coronavirus or the pandemic decentralized the workspace. I am curious. What are some of the tools you are supporting these organizations in going back to work and getting people engaged?
First of all, this is the new normal to find the flexibility and make the hybrid workplaces work for people to see what people prefer. Some of them prefer working from home. Some of them prefer working from the workplace or the office. They need to see the employees adjust to their needs and find the right solution for the company but also for the employees.
Beyond this, there is a lot of burnout nowadays because people walk in 24/7 with their kids on their hands and it’s challenging. People are getting burnout out much quicker. I see that people in organizations also give them tools to increase their stress and anxiety. First of all, when I work with leaders, I tell them, “Be there for your employees and see them in their emotional space.” We learned that we need to solve problems always but we don’t always need to solve the problems.
A lot of the time, you only need to be there with them, listen to them, feel the feelings and that’s enough. They will be engaged because they feel that they are being seen. They feel that they can take out a little bit of their stress and talk with someone. It’s not so easy because, to be there for others, we need to connect to ourselves in our uncomfortable feelings. It’s easy but it’s not easy.
There’s something we need to learn to embrace it and know with this connection. Also, connecting people, and even finding the time to connect there to have a coffee break via Zoom with the people in the office and at home to have small talks and a little bit of connection beyond the functional work. There are a lot of practices that we can embrace nowadays in the hybrid world and it’s needed.
There’s a whole concept of accepting people and people being able to bring their whole self to work. Things that are going on at home will bleed over into the office space or workspace. Being able to give a listening ear is important. A foundation of emotional intelligence is important. I know that you use some of these tools in your book, which is available on Amazon, Mindfully Wise Leadership: The Secret of Today’s Leaders. I would love for you to jump into your book and speak into some lessons, whether it’s life lessons or leadership lessons from your book that people can apply now.
First of all, the most crucial element of mindfulness is I call it the connection. It’s the ability to connect to ourselves. Listening deeply is a crucial skill that we need to nourish and practice because we listen to a lot of noise outside but not to ourselves, our feelings, sensations, and thoughts that run through our minds. Once we are better at listening to ourselves, we can better listen to our employees, customers’ needs, and community, serve them from this place, create better products and services, and enable our employees to flourish because we can listen to what they need.
If an employee is going through a challenging time, I can listen and see what he needs from me, and to be flexible and create this environment for him that he will feel comfortable walking in our company because we will give him a solution to what he needs. It starts by listening. It’s something that we need to practice and nourish. This is the first thing.
It’s okay to be present with uncertainty because it allows new solutions to emerge.
Even a tip for leaders when they start a meeting, you can have a check-up. Ask each and every one, “Are you coming to the meeting? Between 1 and 10, how present are you?” Maybe one of the employees will say, “I’m stressed out. My kid is outside. I need to find a solution. I don’t have a solution for him.” Maybe we can say, “Let’s take five minutes. Everybody will arrange everything, and it can be more present.” Maybe the fact that he stated it, that’s enough for him to be present.
Even starting with this question in checking up on people of where they are now if they are present with us, we engage them even more. It’s the small thing of listening, being there, and engaging the people. The other lesson that’s a crucial lesson is about holding tensions. The modern world is full of tensions between the short-term and the long-term, between the employees’ and the organization’s needs, between speed and quality. There are a lot of tensions.
As leaders, if we’ are talking about presence, we need to embrace these tensions and beat the uncertainty, and not try to close it so quickly in order not to feel the uncomfortable feeling and feel that we don’t know the answer now. This is also a crucial element, and something that we need to know, which is leaders, to be present with answers and not to show coherent identity or solution because we don’t always have it. That’s okay to understand it and be present with the uncertainty. It allows for new solutions to emerge.
An important distinction is to sit in the tension because humans don’t like being uncomfortable. Tension brings about that discomfort. I notice it in myself and other people. As soon as there is a time of tension or discomfort, it’s, “How can we speed through this? How can we fix it? How can we close it off?” What tips can you give people to be able to sit in discomfort and tension?
Even by saying it, it’s having the courage to be vulnerable and start the meeting and say, “We are in a situation that we don’t know the answers for now, and that’s okay.” I also don’t feel comfortable not knowing but I understand it’s following the process and legitimizing it for other people. When a leader shows up there to be vulnerable and shows that he doesn’t have a coherent solution, people will also show up and be vulnerable. They will share their feelings and thoughts about it. Also, my tip for leaders is to invite people to share their experiences, not only thoughts and solutions but just a minute to hold them.
Even beyond that, I always offer leaders to say that if they can enable people in advance that are coming to the meeting and say, “We have this meeting now, and it’s okay that we want every solution at the end of this meeting. We will meet in two days and continue the process.” The fact that we give space and take out the stress in a paradoxical way, there’s a big chance that the solution will emerge because we are not stressed over.
It’s a paradoxical aspect because when we enable something to emerge, it will emerge. If we are so stressed and we don’t want to be in this uncomfortable feeling, we will find more of the same but not the right solution. It’s there to show up and share your own feelings. One of the managers went through my course. All of us went through a tough time in the corner but she also got divorced and had a tough time. She was holding out it all to her employees. In one year, she went through hell, and they didn’t know anything about it.
After my course, we touched upon vulnerability and the ability to be present and show up fully. She decided to share with the employees what she went through. She opened the meeting and told them what she went through this year and the fact that she got divorced and had a tough time. She told me, “It was amazing. First of all, they were so empathized with me and felt me.”
Beyond that, she told me, “People felt comfortable to show up fully and share their experiences. Some of them say they feel lonely.” It was authentic. She said, “It made such a deep connection between us, so afterward, we could do everything together because we are present with our humanity.” It’s crucial nowadays in the loneliness we are going through in the stress because we are all there together. It’s enough that one person will lead to being there to show up as a human. We can do a lot when we have this connection and compassion.
1) The power of listening, and 2) Sitting in the tension. As you have spoken to the ability to be vulnerable, one of the trainings that I do when I do leadership trainings is what I call Pair and Share. It’s telling your story what it’s like to be me and to be you. You tell your story what it’s like to be me. The other person is a generous listener and then repeats back what they heard, “This is what it’s like to be you.”
You get repeated back with everything you said through the lens, vision, and share of the other person. It’s a very powerful connection. What that does is it calms down the nervous system. When you are in this hustle and bustle at work, and everyone is trying to get things done, be productive and proactive. All of those things, what it does is ground people that, “This is another human being sitting across from me at this time.”
I want to finalize it and say that the main tension I found for mindful leadership for the new leadership is the ability to hold the tension between the doing and the being mode. As leaders, we learned that we need to be in the doing, have the right resources, and be active. However, the new powers of leadership talk about the subtle ability to be present, pause, listen and then do it from a place of listening. It’s a place that’s much more accurate.
This is why we need to hold the tension because we can’t only sit and listen on pause. When we are present, listening, and pausing, then we can accurate our way, fine-tune our product, and offer or listen to our employees. A crucial tension for me there is the doing and the being mode. It’s the most essential one that we need to embrace because it’s challenging for us as individuals and leaders to be present, and not run from the problem.
It’s okay if we disagree on the solution. However, we need to respect differences.
In that pause, we have the ability to go from the reactionary mind to the responsive mind. What is one more life lesson or leadership lesson from your book?
What I found in my book and PhD is that the central tool for leaders to lead a creative and innovative organization, I call it the dialogue space. It connects to the ability to all tensions to create a space that invites people to be present with their experiences about a situation. It’s not only figuring it out through our minds but to sharing what I feel regarding something and respecting differences. It’s okay that we don’t agree on the solution. It’s part of being in the process.
By respecting each other and being vulnerable from this place, we can enable something new to emerge. If we are developing a product and I don’t feel comfortable about it, I don’t have the solution by saying, “I don’t know what the right solution is but I know that something doesn’t feel right for me. With the way we are going, we need to figure out what the other options are. I don’t know what to put my finger on.”
You invite people to be present with the mind, heart and will open. I believe the solution that it’s beyond each and every one of us to emerge but for this, we need to be present. Someone needs to hold this space because, if it’s one beheld, people want to feel comfortable to show up. I call it the central tool for a leader’s dialogue spaces.
It’s creating meaning. It’s not coming to walk on the session waiting that he will stop saying what he wants to say because I already thought in my head what I want to say. It’s listening deeper to each other and enabling this space. Also, it’s not a common practice. We are listening for the automatic behaviors. Otto Scharmer calls it Downloading. We are downloading because we are waiting that you will finish. We will start and say what we have on our own line but we are not present. This is the third lesson. There are a lot more lessons.
I love the dialogue space. That’s powerful, to say space for dialogue. That’s amazing. Thank you, Keren. With that, I want to jump into the speed round. This is where I ask you some questions, and you say the first thing that comes to your mind. You can pause. It doesn’t have to be a lightning round in that way. The first question is, what do you want your legacy to be?
I wanted the organization to be a platform for humanity development and for humanity to evolve in knowledge into creating workplaces that enable people to fulfill themselves, be creative and fill meaningfulness in the day-to-day. This is my legacy.
That’s a powerful legacy. It’s the infrastructure that we have to touch so many people because one thing people have in common is going to work or being in a workspace. Number two, what is your favorite book?
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, I love this book. Do you know this book?
I do not know this book. That’s going to be great.
She talks about the ability to handle uncertainty, and she speaks about her difficult situation. She went through a divorce, and then she found a path. Sometimes we need to go through tough times to connect to ourselves, find our calling and mission in life, and live a meaningful life. I really liked it. I remember that I read it, and it gave me a different perspective. It broadened my perspective. It was amazing. It’s a great book.
Who is your favorite author?
I like Simon Sinek’s books. I like a lot of books. I don’t have one favorite author. I have a lot of authors.
Sometimes we need to go through tough times to find out our calling and mission in life.
He is a great one to use as a reference in terms of leadership. What are you reading? What is on your bed stand?
I’m reading The Body Keeps the Score. It’s a powerful book. It talks about the wisdom in our bodies. That’s amazing. This is one of the books I’m reading. This is why it was challenging.
I’m similar. I’m reading books and listening to audiobooks.
I also listen to audiobooks. I listen to a few of them. Adam Grant, I’m listening to his book. He is excellent.
He is a good one. I haven’t read any of Adam Grant’s books, so I get to jump into that. The final question, what are your next writing? You finished your book, and you are like, “What’s next?”
I understand that I will write another book but probably, we will continue the journey. We will see what would come up. I don’t have an answer to this question. Sorry.
It will be unveiled as life moves on for you, and I am sure because sometimes things are written without us participating. It’s just life is written. This will make a good book, this experience, like the book and talking about divorce. You have a life experience, and it starts writing itself. Please, share with my audience how they can find out more about you. I know they can get your book, Mindfully Wise Leadership: The Secret of Today’s Leaders. You can go to Amazon.com and purchase it to read these important skillsets that Keren shares with her audience and the clients that she works with. With that, where else can they find you, Keren?
I would love for you to share, what’s one last piece of wisdom or advice you would like to leave with the audience?
There’s a nice path to say, “Everyone dies at the end but not everyone lives.” I like it. I believe that we need to wake up and be present for our life because life is short. We want to enjoy it and bring our presence to the world.
“Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.” That’s a very important piece of advice and wisdom that you leave us with, Keren. I want to appreciate and acknowledge you for being here and sharing your wisdom. Thank you so much. Thank you, everyone, for reading. Again, you can buy Mindfully Wise Leadership on Amazon. Until next time. I will see you in the next episode.
Thank you very much. It was my pleasure.
- Wisdom to Lead
- Mindfully Wise Leadership: The Secret of Today’s Leaders
- Wisdom 2.0 Conference
- When Things Fall Apart
- The Body Keeps the Score
- Mindfully Wise Leadership: The Secret of Today’s Leaders – Amazon
- Mind Your Leadership
- Keren Tsuk – LinkedIn
- Facebook – Keren Tsuk
About Keren Tsuk
Dr. Keren Tsuk, the CEO & Founder of Wisdom To Lead, is a thought leader who has a Ph.D. from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and is an expert in leadership at 21st-century organizations. The author of the book Mindfully Wise Leadership: The Secret of Today’s Leaders. Dr. Tsuk has more than 20 years of experience in supervising, guiding, and advising organizations through processes of change and growth. She helps companies to deal with their challenges and handle their different organizational tensions through mindfulness. Keren uses a holistic approach, which integrates personal and organizational growth.