Mindfulness is a well-developed, evidence-based process for accessing and developing your greatest asset as a leader – you!
But despite a plethora of research supporting mindfulness programmes, many businesses still can’t see the relevance. We know big companies like Google and Twitter invest in mindfulness, but isn’t that just nice to have soft stuff for companies who can afford it?
Do more mindful leaders really benefit business and the bottom-line?
Effective leadership is about holding strong professional ethical values, which align with a desired business culture. The best leaders show up, do their jobs well, and positively influence others. They behave in ways consistent with their values, display empathy and compassion, while inspiring others to perform and be accountable. No wonder Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants the government to bring kindness back!
Leaders create culture. If you agree, then mindfulness is probably the number one skill leaders need to perform and function at their best.
On the other hand, if you think mindfulness is just a ‘nice to have’ consider these questions. As a leader:
- Can you positively manage performance issues, while remaining firm and kind?
- Under pressure (or when angry, frustrated, or attacked) can you step back and pause before reacting mindlessly?
- Do you shy away difficult conversations?
- Can you really listen to people without getting lost in your own head?
- How swiftly can you draw a line denoting what’s unacceptable at work?
- Do you regularly get sick after periods of prolonged stress?
- Outside work, do you struggle to be present with the people close to you?
- Can you prioritise your workday, or do you waste time answering email and putting out fires, while essential work backs up?
- Do you stay on task until completion, or do you multitask to get things done?
- Are you regularly exhausted at the end of the day?
- How often do you resort to mind-numbing (alcohol, social media, mindless TV) to cope with anxiety and overwhelm?
- When criticised, can you remain open and curious, instead of reactive and defensive?
- Can you approach problems with fresh eyes, or are you blinded by your own expertise?
- Are you brave enough to say, “I don’t know” and to admit your mistakes?
- When others disagree with you, are you open to their perspective, or do you push harder to have your opinion heard?
As a leader, you’re paid to think – and think well. When you do, everyone benefits.
An ever-increasing pressure to do more with less, forces people to rush and multitask. Many leaders strive to function at their best, while living in a state of chronic stress, which inadvertently (and unconsciously) compromises all their brain’s executive functions.
You cannot concentrate, make great decisions, problem-solve, self-regulate, remain curious and open, stay fair but firm, or be as innovative and creative, while living in go-go-go mode and a state of high alert.
Practising mindfulness counterbalances the unhealthy pace of the modern workplace and provides leaders with tools to self-manage and self-regulate. It helps build self-awareness, resilience, and expands emotional intelligence – all essential for surviving the complexity and pace of change.
9 ways mindfulness makes you a better leader
- When the proverbial hits the fan, practising mindfulness nurtures your inner resources to build the resilience to respond with equanimity and calm. Instead of reacting mindlessly, you’re able to constructively manage tough situations.
- Learning how to focus your attention by ‘uni-tasking’ means getting more done, making fewer mistakes, while feeling more engaged, satisfied, and less fatigue.
- Mindfulness practices enable leaders to be more present moment focused, and therefore more on-game.
- Chronic stress increases cognitive rigidity (making you more problem-focused, inflexible, controlling, and risk averse). Mindfulness reduces cognitive rigidity, providing a relaxed, open, and flexible mind which finds solutions easier.
- Being able to swiftly interrupt strong emotions shortens the time it takes to bounce back during prolonged stress, change and uncertainty (and the calmest person in the room, is often the most powerful – it’s contagious!).
- Improved physical and mental health benefits reduce illness and absenteeism.
- Mindful leaders make better listeners. Their intention is to hear (rather than just be heard). Approaching conversations with an open curiosity (being less critical and judgmental) improves relationships and builds trust.
- Heightened self-awareness means you’re more likely to notice, question and act when professional values (or those of the business) are breached. Being more in tune with the body and giving yourself permission to attend to your own needs first, makes you more use to everyone and sets a great example.
- Mindfulness builds compassion and empathy. Recognising we’re all in this together instils an attitude of service leadership (how can I serve?) which is less combative and ego-based. Service orientated leaders reduce workplace conflict and build great teams.
I’m not saying mindfulness is the answer to every issue leaders face, but it’s hard to beat as far as improving attention, building self-awareness, and enhancing emotional intelligence goes.
Leaders need new tools to build emotional intelligence, strengthen professional integrity, and deepen personal humility.
Self-awareness, innovation, compassion, courage, and resilience are known outcomes of mindfulness training – and essential leadership qualities for the survival of successful, sustainable, ethical organizations.
Kerene Strochnetter is a Mindfulness Consultant, Leader Coach, and Speaker. She is one of the organising team for the First Mindful Leaders Conference 2-3rd March 2018 at Te Papa in Wellington. Click here to find out more or to Register.
Kerene works with businesses across New Zealand delivering ‘My Off Switch’ mindfulness programmes to embed and merge mindfulness with workplace behaviours, build resilience, optimise attention, and regulate emotion.
It’s all about changing the way you work to positively influence workplace culture.