Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and requiring constant peak performance. This often makes it hard to find a balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one.”

“Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder.”

Part 1 of The HR And Mindfulness Business Series

Ep. #72 - With Dr. Keren Tsuk, Founder & CEO of Wisdom to Lead

From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs

At the age of almost thirty, Keren found herself in a tough spot. Not sure about her path, without a meaningful romantic relationship she aspired to have, having been rejected interview after interview for jobs she applied to. It was a pit she didn’t know how to get out of but a book that her father gave her helped change something within her. She realized two things:

  • 1. Love is everywhere–it’s not just in romantic relationships, but in any relationship in her life. She realized how much love exists between her and her friends; close bonds she didn’t know how to appreciate before.
  • 2. The power of loving yourself, truly. It shouldn't depend on a job title or a goal you’ve achieved. Love comes just by knowing and connecting to yourself.

To her big surprise, when she listened to herself, she learned that she didn’t really want the jobs she was interviewing for. So, she went on a journey to find her true passion – a process that she used to help managers and her clients. Back then, this search led her to her dream job as an organizational consultant at Pilat HR, and to a wonderful relationship she still has to this day. That was the beginning of her journey as she learned how to listen.

When I asked Keren what she believes is stopping people from taking this pause and listening to themselves, she answered: “It’s the survival mode - we’re connected to the fear that we won’t have enough options or money, so we’re contracting ourselves and don’t really adopt the beginner's mindset and give ourselves time to explore – to really connect to what we want– not what our parents, partners, siblings or kids want for us. I think that listening to our passions and needs and acting upon them takes mindfulness.

The power of mindfulness

The classic definition of mindfulness is, “The ability to be intentionally present here and now, non-judgmentally.” Keren likes to explain mindfulness as “the ability to be aware of an experience we’re going through; it can be a thought that runs in my mind, an emotion that I’m feeling, a process that I’m going through. Being aware of it, in a non-judgmental way, but also without being controlled by it. This is the critical thing.”

This means we can feel difficult emotions, allowing them to exist within us, without being consumed by them. Instead of being automatically reactive to our emotions, through mindfulness we can pause and choose our response.

Our biggest anchor to being mindful is our breath. We don’t even need to dedicate a lot of time to be mindful– it’s enough to take 1-3 minutes in the middle of the day. Even the busiest among us have 3 minutes in a day to stop and focus on our breathing.

So how can we embrace mindfulness in our day-to-day work life?

Keren continued: “I see it like this: What does it mean to be a leader? To change patterns.”

One of the most difficult but crucial patterns to pay attention to is the way we communicate. In the workplace, we’re constantly surrounded by stressors. Learning how to communicate mindfully, as difficult as it may be, holds the key to better satisfaction, trust, and calmness in our workplace, and with our colleagues. Even if we’ll be met with resistance and cynicism from others in the beginning, we know that we show up fully, in our most open and vulnerable selves. It’s not common enough in today’s workspaces, but there’s a real hunger for it, and in the end, people won’t stay in a place they don’t feel seen.

When I (Gali) work with founders and management teams, I advise them to use 4 communication components in their meetings:

  • 1. The title: what are we going to talk about?
  • 2. Go over all the details: the information you want to pass to your team about the process you're in right now, whether it’s GTM, adding features to your product, etc.
  • 3. The deliverables: exactly what you’re expecting and what’s the deadline
  • 4. Reflection: asking what everyone understood from what was being discussed.

That way, we can know if we have communicated clearly enough, and we avoid instances where our team didn’t understand what we really meant and therefore avoid missing the mark. Such a practice is relevant to every phase we’re in.

“Mindfulness, at the end of the day, increases our productivity, efficiency, and resilience. We need to listen to ourselves, give ourselves time, and nourish our inner world because if you get to a point where you’re burdened and stressed out, you can't win. Just like you put fuel in the car, you need to fuel yourself.”