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mindfulness.jpgLast week, I had an absolutely humbling experience. I was traveling to Miami to speak at the ITEXPO conference about the BMC Remedyforce team’s use of social media as part of our product development, marketing, selling, and customer support strategy (the show was great and I had a blast sharing our story and hearing how others are using social technologies to better connect with customers, but that’s a separate blog). This was a unique trip for me because it was my last trip for a while. You see, I’m six-and-a-half months pregnant (first baby for the Averys!) and this was my last trip before the doctor-mandated “no travel period” kicked in. So off I went to Miami, and the simple awareness from strangers around me during this last trip was absolutely humbling. From the three men in the airplane (including a pilot) who clamored over each other to put my bag in the overhead bin, to the lady getting into the rental car next to me who insisted she lift my bag into the trunk of my rental car, to the valet who, upon seeing me through the glass doors at the hotel, rushed inside to roll my bag out to my waiting rental car, this pregnant gal didn’t lift a finger on her final business trip. Sure, these folks were generous, but more than that, they were aware. They were aware that I was in a unique situation (it’s not every day you see a pregnant business traveler waddling down the aisle of the airplane) and they could take action to help.


Awareness and mindfulness go hand in hand. Mindfulness (among many definitions) is the idea of paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. And mindfulness is a hot topic these days. Need proof? Look no further than a recent cover of TIME magazine that explores the “Mindful Revolution” and proposes "finding peace in a stressed-out, digitally dependent culture may just be a matter of thinking differently."


This brings me to our jobs in IT. Awareness and mindfulness are not ideals to be practiced in our personal life and then checked at the door when we show up to work. They’re concepts that should permeate our existence, day in and day out, fundamentally shifting the way we interact with the world (our customers, technology, and other departments) around us to make those interactions richer, purposeful, and more productive. If this feels too ambiguous for you as you endeavor to embrace the customer perspective, remember, you are a customer too.  What would you want to empower you if you were in their shoes?


“The problem isn’t just being aware of what’s going on — it’s remembering to be aware. This remembering is what mindfulness is about. Too often we forget to be aware.”  - Leo Babauta


Do you switch into “auto-pilot” when you show up to work each day, back to the grind with a to-do list in hand? Don’t get me wrong; I love a good to-do list (and research shows, the simple act of making a list can actually make us more productive). But are you following a list or set of prescriptive behaviors because it’s the right thing to do, or because it’s what you’re supposed to do according to “the list”? I could stop the blog here because the answer to that simple question may bring its own level of uncomfortable awareness, but I’m going to press on. This awareness stuff isn’t for the faint of heart. To quote my friend and colleague Chris Dancy (who knows a thing or two about mindfulness), “Awareness is a maturity level for IT. It’s the first level and the last level.”


So, my question to you, as we enter February 2014, is:


What about your business has fundamentally changed?


And let’s face it folks, every business makes changes, so there is an answer here. It’s up to you to discover it.  And to that point, we have to get our awareness straight before we can walk a mile in a customer’s shoes. Here are a few questions to reflect on (as an individual, a team, or an organization) to help you on your path:


  • Did you have grand plans to align with business changes in 2014, but one month into the New Year, you find yourself reverting back to the old way of doing things because changing behavior didn’t work for your IT organization?  We’re here to enable the business – it’s not about something not working for IT anymore, it’s about making IT work for the business. 
  • Are you still operating the way you operated last year because no one told you things changed, and you remain blissfully ignorant of the changes around you? Enter awareness, stage left – something changed – are you paying enough attention to realize it?
  • Is your organization experiencing friction with another part of the organization? It may be acknowledged or unacknowledged, but most often we find this conflict isn’t malicious. Awareness and communication are the first steps in resolving the “rub” and putting all parties on a much smoother path to success.


It’s a new calendar year (or maybe for your business, it’s simply a new day) – something has changed in your business. Do you have the awareness to recognize the change, mindfulness to focus on that change, and the desire (read – you avoid procrastination) to adjust the way you deliver your services, or better yet, adjust your services, to match the new way your business is operating? The cover article from TIME this week tells us, “Finding peace in a stressed-out, digitally dependent culture may just be a matter of thinking differently.”  Thinking, focusing, and then acting differently can be incredibly powerful, gratifying, and effective. The only business to align to is the one that creates kindness to each other.  Just ask this pregnant gal who was surrounded by awareness and the recipient of mindful, generous action last week.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic!  You can find me at @ErinKAvery on Twitter or comment on this post!