Saundra Schrock is the Founder and CEO of LevelHead, an app that helps employers engage employees in ways to improve their well being and performance. Saundra kicked off her three decade tenure working in finance as a teller, and cites hard work as what propelled her rise in the ranks. Over the years, especially when her travel schedule increased, Saundra turned to meditation and yoga to help combat stress and improve her leadership skills. When she transitioned out of finance, her dedication to wellness reamined. Always fascinated with psychology, she knew that to really spread the message of mindfulness in leadership, she’d have to go farther than teaching or writing a book, so she turned to technology. By parlaying her program into an app, she’s taken mindfulness to the masses.
In this episode of the SuccessLab Podcast, Saundra shares how mindfulness can help people seize opportunities, become stronger leaders and change team for the better.
How did LevelHead come to be?
I had a job where I traveled every day for a couple of decades. I had to make sure I could manage my stress, so I began practicing meditation and yoga when I was working. I saw the changes in myself, and became curious, why is this happening? Why does this work? I started reading all the research I could find and ended up teaching a class at the graduate level at ASU in mindful leadership. That’s how I came up with the program on functional mindfulness. After teaching I put it on the shelf for a little while. Execs from around town would knock on the door and say, “Hey Saundra, I heard you had this program – would you coach me on this?” It was time consuming but very enjoyable so I coached some people. It wasn’t scalable for me to do it one-on-one so I thought about publishing a book, and then I had an opportunity to engage with the people at Tallwave, and they helped us turn it into an app. Now I see it as the only way you can engage a large group of people to actually enjoy some of the benefits of being more present and focused in their lives.
Are there common challenges you see leaders struggling with today?
Absolutely. This is not just leaders, this is everyone you encounter. People’s minds are wandering at a greater degree than I’ve ever seen before. The downside of that is relationships are deteriorating. People misunderstand each other, they jump to conclusions or they miss opportunities to connect. When you get that in a person who is leading other people at a company, you see that magnified and the entire group mirrors that kind of inattentiveness.
Do you have tips for people who feel like they constantly need to be on or multitasking who need to productive?
When you reach a certain age in your life, you get more courageous! When I find people’s attention drifting that requires their full attention, I say, “It seems like you’re really distracted at this moment. Is there a better time we can speak?” It’s a teaching moment and an opportunity for them to realize that their mind is not invisible. I will take that moment to point it out to people, not to be critical or judgmental. When I find when my mind is wandering when someone else is speaking, I actually will correct myself, or ask that we have this important conversation at another time. Having these honest dialogues doesn’t breed contempt – it builds respect and brings people together in a more honest and open conversation.
Do you have any best practices for maintaining focus and dealing with stress?
There are a few micro choices we can make throughout the day. For example, being able to have something in the morning, even one or two minutes, to be able to clear your mind, close your eyes and just relax. The second thing is give yourself some planned breaks. When I have a to-do list, I will put notes to take break. Take a walk around the building even just to see what’s going on. If it’s pleasant, go outside. Then your break becomes a reward. The moment you get back, reprioritize what you were going to do with the remaining amount of time.
Do you have any tips for helping your team achieve presence?
It starts with you – leading by example is not just a cliche. The simple thing you have to remember is that what you do, people will either consciously or unconsciously repeat. Make sure the way you’re representing yourself is the way you want your employees to represent you and your company. When you start doing these things, people will notice the change in you, start emulating you, or asking what kind of changes you’re making. It’s a wonderful opportunity for feedback and to create some change in your employees.
How can entrepreneurs stop themselves from falling into a trap of negative thinking?
When I fall into negative thinking, there are three things I do. I remind myself that this is difficult. It’s not me and it’s not that I’m inadequate, but what I’m attempting to do is difficult. It’s the situation, not you. And then I remind myself that I do have the skills to do this. I go down and list them to myself – here are the reasons why I can do these things, here are the times I have done them, and if I’ve done it once I can do it again. And the third piece is I remind myself that I’m not alone.
Coffee drinker? Yes!
What is one business tool you’re in love with right now? Mturk by Amazon
What is a favorite piece of technology of yours? My iPhone.
What’s one book you’d pass along to a fellow entrepreneur? Connectivity
Who is one person you’d have dinner with? The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher.
How many hours of sleep do you get per night? Seven, otherwise I’m cranky!