Pam, a former client who is a leader in a large nonprofit here in Southern California, has a role that requires that she travel. A lot. She considers herself good at it. She may not quite be at the level of the George Clooney character in Up in the Air; still, her carry on suitcase is always packed and ready to go. Her clothes mix and match easily and travel without wrinkling. She knows airport tricks others don’t, she knows the ins and outs of all the major hotel chains, and so on.
Yet, the other day, sitting at lunch with a colleague, she noticed that she was so drained and exhausted, she was having a hard time paying attention. She decided to come clean and said, “I’m so sorry. I totally missed what you just said. I’m so tired from traveling, I barely know what city I’m in.”
Her companion replied: “What you need is your French Press!”
Pam, understandably confused by this, asked what she meant.
Her companion, it turns out is a substitute teacher. She travels from classroom to classroom and so is vulnerable to feeling dislocated. She shared that to create a sense of roundedness she brings something that has meaning to her: her french press, along with her favorite coffee (complete with her favorite calming aroma), her own special mug, a meaningful placemat and so on. She arrives at her classrooms early, sets up the coffee service, and lets it brew. As the aroma starts to fill the room, she walks out and re-enters, to the familiar smells and accompanying feelings of home, knowing who and where she is.
“So,” she says to Pam, “what you need is a french press of your own.”
What grounds Pam every day is doing her favorite yoga poses followed by writing an intention for her day on a white board in her office. So, Pam’s new “french press” is a travel yoga mat and a Sharpie. Now she sets up a yoga corner in her hotel room as soon as she arrives in a new city. She starts each day with her familiar yoga practices and writes her intention on the mat itself.
I loved hearing Pam’s story. Most business leaders have been in Pam’s shoes, moving so fast that we lose our sense of groundedness, find our focus diminished, miss some or all of what’s being said. Becoming conscious of our energy, our focus, our listening, etc. — and intentionally putting a practice in place to create a bridge to our own higher performance is leadership at its best.