The Executive Who Liked to Do Nothing


The Executive Who Liked to Do Nothing

We heard from a former VIM Executive Coaching client this week who now lives in the Pacific Northwest. He told us a funny story about how one of his new co-workers barged into his office early one morning before the start of business. Our former client was seated in a chair facing out to the wooded campus of the corporation, in fact, he was meditating. The new co-worker said, “Stop sitting there doing nothing, let’s go get some breakfast.”

“I’m not doing nothing,” said the executive. “I’m meditating.”

“OK, whatever you call it,” said the co-worker. “Let’s get coffee and wake you up!”


How do we perceive a person who takes ten minutes to meditate? It can be “during work” or at home. I might add by “during work,” I mean in the minutes before the work day begins, or after, or even when others might be munching a sandwich during the lunch hour. I am not suggesting that in the middle of a meeting an executive goes off into a meditative trance! I am curious about how an executive, quietly sitting in meditation, is perceived.

This is not a new question, and perhaps that is part of a problem. I have encountered corporate situations where, during lunchtimes, executives closed their office doors and quietly played guitar, or “studied their lines” for a community theater musical, or studied German (or any number of languages). I have known many lucky executives who had corporate work-out rooms and locker rooms, where they worked out before or after work. Certainly, I have heard numerous, early morning “Fantasy Football” discussions and even lunch-hour book clubs. And all of it is great, and morale boosting. However, when an executive quietly closes an office door and takes a few minutes to meditate, it is often seen as suspect. Why would this be?

Part of the perception, and it’s absolutely erroneous, it that meditation is seen as somehow “religious.” As an executive business coach who helps guide many leaders through mindfulness meditation practices, I have coached executives of every religion – and no religion.

Another perception is that an executive who meditates is sitting there doing nothing. The perception is wrong and right. The person who is meditating is stilling the mind and centering oneself. It is deceptive in its simplicity and in its practice because in these stressful times, it is so hard to create an island of stillness. In the practice of meditation, one learns to be more open, more authentic and even more compassionate. Yes, the person is “sitting there,” but I would debate the “doing nothing” part.

The third perception is that meditation is a waste of time. It is a funny opinion in the sense if we compare ten minutes of meditation to discussing a reality TV show or gossiping about a co-worker! 

Getting Back to Authentic

Meditation allows a re-set to the day. It allows executives to find their core and their true selves. It makes managers better able to reflect on employee conflict and to moderate the high’s and lows of the day. Any practice that allows us to be more authentic and by extension, much more effective must be good.

Going back to the insufferable stress that confronts all of us in these times of inter-connectedness, digital and information overload, and remote, often far-flung offices, it is meditation that allows us to be more of ourselves. It is so difficult to be in the moment and to be “real.” Meditation helps us to be real.

Far from being anti-social, meditation makes us much more social. Those who meditate are much more accessible and closer to themselves. By extension they are closer to all of us. By sitting there, they are hardly “doing nothing.”

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