Retired Navy Seal Commander Jon Macaskill first learned mindfulness and meditation in the Navy where they used breathing drills to take control of their emotions while taking down a target or dealing with explosives. Except, he says, that they didn’t call it mindfulness and meditation, and he had a prejudice against it himself when years later, a counselor recommended it to him as a way to deal with stress and survivor’s guilt. However, he broke through the stigma and found the practice useful, not only to overcome his depression and anxiety, but also to improve his performance. Now he uses mindfulness and meditation to coach high performing teams to accomplish more and do their best. These tools, and several others, help him break through the clutter of multi-tasking and multi-communicating to help managers take control and achieve the most difficult of results—happy AND productive employees.
Mindfulness and Meditation Is a Game-Changer
Jon says that taking time to listen to a guided meditation or just being quiet and paying attention to your emotions and your physical sensations in the here and now gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to focus your mind and pay attention. He calls it a game changer because he says when you are present with yourself, you’re present with everyone else, including your family and your co-workers. The small investment in self-care has an enormous return in terms of better communication, higher productivity and greater enjoyment of what you do.
He uses two examples in this conversation. When he first started meditating he shares how he reacted to his baby daughter’s 3:00 am feedings—first it was stewing about the pressures of the day and returning to bed for a sleepless night. After three months, however, he enjoyed her cooing and appreciated the miracle of her being, then slept until morning refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
With his second example, he shares how multi-tasking reduces the flow produced by mindfulness and actually causes more errors and reduces productivity. In his consulting business, he charts the communication in the organization for quality verses quantity. He says that he is always asked how can we communicate better in this day of hyper-connectivity? So he analyzes their interactions: if they’re sending a million e-mails, constantly sending SLACK messages and keeping the channels open while working on other things, a lot of communication is getting lost. Jon advocates “mono-tasking and focusing on one single thing at a time.” When people object that they don’t have time, he shows them how it creates more time and he points out that “not only are you going to feel better at the end of the day, but you’re going to have gotten more done.”
The Line Between the Leader and the Boss
Jon differentiates between the leader and the boss in the way they lead. The boss comes in with the heavy hand of a tyrant and objectifies his workers, so they serve as objects. Everyone is working for the bottom line. A leader, by contrast, knows he/she is leading people with lives and concerns about work and families, and enlists those people to work towards goals as part of the organization, not just as the head of the organization. Jon’s ideal leader is the “loved leader.” This is not a weak leader, but is strong and resilient. He says, “(A loved-leader) is somebody who is compassionate, can see what his or her people need. And if he or she is not the person individually that is able to support their people, then they can leverage their sub leaders, their subordinate leaders, to get their people what they need, so that they can accomplish the mission. I mean, I’m former military, so we’re always talking about accomplishing the mission.”
Men Talking Mindfulness, Strong Male Ally and Corporate Consultant
Listen or watch this podcast to find out more about Jon’s podcast, Men Talking Mindfulness where he and a co-host discuss different aspects of mindfulness, but do not limit their topics to men. Jon welcomes women guests, and they discuss feminine energy, masculine energy and issues and strengths of both. Jon also talks about his wife and mother as strong supportive women in his life that he depends on for support and who provide the foundation for his support of women’s equality and equity in the world. Check out his website, Macaskill Consulting to learn about his four pillars that build the foundation for success: grit, resilience, compassion and preparedness. Listen to this conversation for more about his work with Space Force and other organizations to identify blind spots and help them become more resilient with foresight for the challenges ahead.