The concept of mindfulness has long been associated with wellness and the practice of meditation. So what does this have to do with leadership in the corporate world?
Mindfulness has three components. The first is to live in the moment, without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. The second element is paying attention to internal (your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions) and external (events occurring in your environment) stimuli. The third is related to the ability to assess situations objectively, without judgment, in an open and tolerant way.
Simply put, mindfulness is “awareness that arises from paying attention, deliberate, in the moment, and without judgment,” according to mindfulness expert Jon Kabat Zinn.
In an article published in Mindful Magazine, a conscious leader is described as one who embodies the presence of leadership by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity, and compassion in service to others. Such a leader can give full attention to the tasks at hand, uninfluenced by other distractions.
In today’s fast-paced business environment marked by uncertainty, leaders need to be quick, but also ensure that their judgments are carefully considered. This balance between action and emotion also comes from mindfulness.
When leaders can effectively practice mindfulness, they build an organization’s psychological capital, which has four components:
1. Hope: Leaders are able to inspire employees to expect and strive for great results.
2. Optimism: Teams have a positive view of the future and view the challenges of the present as learning opportunities rather than obstacles to progress.
3. Self-efficacy: Team members have the belief and confidence that they can accomplish the tasks expected of them and that they can accomplish anything they wish to accomplish.
4. Resilience: Teams can bounce back after facing challenges.
Mindfulness in the workplace is a concept that has been met with some skepticism. Academic research on mindfulness in the workplace, on the other hand, has found promising results. Correlations have been found between the practice of mindfulness and
coping well with stress, having better job satisfaction and increased engagement and decreased burnout. Mindfulness also creates intentionality, leading to better and more deliberate decision making. It also increases one’s emotional quotient and cultivates creativity. So while it’s important for leaders to learn how to lead mindfully, it’s equally important for them to ensure their teams are also immersing themselves in mindful practices.
Major companies like Google, Aetna, and Intel have embraced mindfulness and seen reduced stress levels, improved concentration, thinking, decision-making skills, and overall well-being. A BCG report on unleashing the power of mindfulness recommends companies explore options for meditation training or mindfulness coaching. “Conscious micropractices”, or mindfulness practices that are incorporated into everyday life in a non-intrusive way.
A Harvard Business Review article outlines ways to start creating a more mindful workplace, some of which apply particularly to leaders:
1. Develop your own personal daily mindfulness practice and make it a habit.
2. Start meetings with a “minute of mindfulness,” allowing team members to take a moment to gather their thoughts and focus their full attention on the meeting agenda
3. Allow and encourage teams to practice mindfulness – give them access to apps or mindfulness resources and tools that can empower them to be more mindful.
Mindfulness is not a quality that can be employed overnight. It takes time, patience and continuous practice to maintain. Done right, it can have an immense impact on your people, your culture, and your business. Try!
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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