Like most busy professionals, Janice Marturano was working long hours, putting out fires and dealing with nonstop demands not only inside the office but outside as well. Vice president of public responsibility and deputy general counsel at General Mills, the then 43-year-old was married with school-age children, president of the board for a large nonprofit and the daughter of aging parents.
"I was a 21st-century juggler," she said at CNBC's @ Work Talent + HR Summit on Tuesday in New York City.
In 2000 Marturano received a call from her CEO asking her to lead a team of people to get a multibillion-dollar deal approved by the FTC, she said. The deal, intended to take six months, dragged on for 18. "The team and I were working seven-day weeks, and I sent my family away twice without me. Six months in, my mother passed away. I had no time to grieve. I do what busy professionals do; we play hurt, push it away. Six months after that, my dad also passed away. The deal was over, but I was profoundly aware that I had lost something."
At the advice of a physician friend, she decided to take some time off from work to attend an intensive retreat for executives in Arizona called the Power of Mindfulness.
Just what is mindfulness? It is the art of being fully present and aware of where we are and what we're doing, without reacting or being overwhelmed by what's going on around us. Something most people in this 24/7/365 world find impossible to do.
"It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I had been running 150 mph for so long, I wasn't even aware of how far into autopilot I had gone. The idea of stopping was a lot like hitting a brick wall," she said.
But it was that pause, that deep breath, that step back that changed her life. There, she learned that through meditation, reflection and personal pause — that moment in the day when you notice the chaos and intentionally choose to pay attention — professionals in every level of an organization can train their mind to cut out all the noise and distractions and be better able to make good decisions both at work and in life.
"Without it," she said, "we are asking them to do the impossible."
Six years later, in 2006, Marturano founded the Institute for Mindful Leadership and wrote "Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership." Using the institute's mindful leadership curricula, she has trained business leaders and employees from more than 60 organizations around the world, most recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
According to Marturano, below are the four fundamentals of professional excellence that can be cultivated through mindful leadership training.