Leadership // Business

How Can Leaders Be More Mindful in the Workplace?

Steven Covey once said “The single most powerful investment we can ever make in life is investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and contribute." How does this resonate for you?

At IECL (where I work), taking care of ourselves is an essential element of thriving in the workplace and in life as a whole. So, how do we take care of ourselves in a Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous (VUCA) world where the demands seem to be spiralling up, yet our capacity to cope is not? Mindfulness, one of the most Googled words in recent years, is a way of being that enables us to do this.

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Through regular mindfulness practice we are able to avoid feeling overwhelmed, and remain in control even when the outside world is in havoc. A client recently shared the analogy of being settled as being in the eye in a violent storm.

So what is mindfulness and what are its benefits in the workplace?

The working definition we choose is that of Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." Some of the benefits reported in research studies on mindfulness training include:

  • Enhanced focus and attention
  • Improved decision-making ability
  • Increased self-awareness and self-regulation
  • Higher levels of resilience and emotional intelligence
  • Strengthened cognitive effectiveness
  • Improved performance
  • Heightened ability to manage and prevent stress
  • Increased wellbeing
  • Greater creativity and innovation 

What does the research say?

In the coaching and leadership domains, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) research is being seen as equal in importance and influence to Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence a decade ago. We have made Daniel Goleman’s work a key part of IECL’s philosophy and we are taking this development in mindfulness seriously, and are now offering the 8-week MBSR to our coaching alumni and clients. As a gauge of the level of interest in this topic, there are now over 4,500 peer reviewed studies on the effects of mindfulness training.

Where in the world?

With mindfulness training being thousands of years old, and at the heart of ancient eastern traditions, the Western world is beginning to catch up. Now, in the 21st century, cutting-edge cognitive neuroscience is meeting ancient wisdom which is exciting for us.

Mindfulness has been gaining momentum here in Australia yet we are still a way behind other parts of the world, including the UK and US, and we wonder why? We would value any thoughts here.

In the UK for instance, last May the UK all-parliamentary party on mindfulness was launched to study the benefits of bringing mindfulness training into the health service, schools and prisons (over 100 MP’s and parliamentary staff have already undertaken mindfulness training during the past year). It can be said that mindfulness training is truly becoming mainstream. The UK Government have recently launched ‘The Mindful Nation’ report which can be downloaded towards the end of this post.

Mindfulness in the workplace

There are increasingly longer lists of companies in the US and UK who are offering mindfulness training to their employees including General Mills, Black Rock, London Underground, SAP and Aetna. The list is slowly growing in Australia too, as companies begin to recognise the power of mindfulness training as a foundation for organisational effectiveness.

Ways to get involved

IECL are offering the gold standard Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program publically to individuals in corporations again this March to May and then later in September after a well-received launch at the end of last year. If you want to get started, here are some resources I recommend:

Apps

Books

  • Finding the Space to Lead by Janice Marturano (2014)
  • The Mindful Workplace: Developing Resilient Individuals and Resonant Organisations with MBSR by Michael Chaskalson (2013)
  • Search Inside Yourself by Chade Meng Tan (2012)
  • Mindfulness at Work for Dummies by Shamash Alidina and Juliet Adams, 2014

Useful Links

Mental training of the mind, via mindfulness training programs, is increasingly being seen as the next major public health revolution – following on from society’s recognition three or so decades ago, that physical training was essential for a fit and healthy body. Is it time to start building your mindfulness muscle?

PS: We've received lots of enquiries since this article around where to find a good business coach. Here's a list of some top business coaches in Sydney, and another list of some top business coaches in Melbourne. Let us know how you go with them - good luck!

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Dani Matthews

Dani Matthews

Mumpreneur and lifestyle coach whose purpose is sharing learnings and insights through writing and conversation, to inspire others to action (if right for them).