Mindfulness and how it is so beneficial to leaders is a hot topic right now. And yet, practicing mindfulness, to some, seems akin to some fluffy, feel-good stuff . However, this focuses on a tiny aspect of the whole. There certainly is feeling “more together” but there is far more to it. Consider why feeling less stressed, getting more stuff done and have a better relationship with your staff is a business booster when you take advantage of mindful management.
Quick introduction to mindfulness
It can seem like the latest fad when you hear that there is a “new” way to be a better leader or more productive. There are certainly plenty of those but mindfulness has been around for some time. In the late 1970’s, Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced it in medical circles to provide stress reduction training. Since then, it has grown beyond being an adjunct in behavioural medicine.The roots of current mindfulness are in Buddhism and meditation. Essentially, mindfulness is the mental state of being present and focused on what is going on around you in real-time. Your mind is not focused on past events or anticipated future events. It is not meant to be complicated or need some esoteric meditation practice either.
You have probably heard the advice to start your day with some quiet activity like breathing or reviewing your daily goals list with the intent to focus on what has to be done first. Plus, you’ve probably been told that taking time to think sets the tone for your day. This quote from Jean Rostand, “To reflect is to disturb one’s thoughts” sums it up well.
If it is complicated or too foreign, you are not going to do it. Many of my clients describe how going for a run or walk in the morning before they head into the office is a meditation for them. A colleague of mine often recommends simply breathing deeply and slowly for 5 minutes. And beyond the beginning of your day, you can stop and ask yourself, “how is this helping me or my business?” We often get entangled because we confuse the immediate with urgent. Being fully present…mindful…is giving yourself permission to give your full attention to where you are, what you are doing and who you are with. It is remarkable how 5 minutes here or 30 seconds there saves days of confusion, misunderstanding and problems.
Consider these 9 things and take advantage of mindful management
- Better strategic thinking – William S. Burroughs once wrote, ” Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” A frantic mind cannot imagine or anticipate events or potential choices.
- Won’t be off in La-La-Land – Business owners and executives often feel harried which leaves them running a hamster wheel in their minds. With mindfulness, you can be attentive and ready for what is in your environment
- Role model for your staff – Staff watch their managers for clues as to how to behave. If you are taking care of your health and well-being, they will remember your example.
- 12 minutes could prevent misunderstandings – Adding a practice of quieting your mind and body every day will stay with you throughout the day in conversation and actions.
- Learn how to breathe – Many of us hold our breath without even knowing it. This creates a biological response of stress which adds to our perception that things are stressful. Put your hand on your abdomen and slow breathe in. Feel your belly rise and fall. Now you are breathing in a healthy way. (This can be done anywhere!)
- Less worry, better problem-solving – When you are calmer from the outset, you can triage more effectively. Ask, “Is this really a problem or simply a hiccup?” When managers are mindful, they are much easier to approach. You may have a staff person who noticed an issue and can give you this information before it is a problem.
- Less dysfuntional corporate culture – It is far too easy to get caught up in the “Gotta Get It Done Now” mindset and create unreasonable deadlines and workloads. May even highlight when to hire or fire employees
- Some days are going to be less than stellar – Things happen and you find you have gotten nothing done on a particular day. Forgive yourself when this happens.
- Everyone is in a more positive mood – Who wants to work with a bunch of grumpy people? Zappos is a great example of positive attitudes stemming from a sense of mission. Mindful management can support this sense of mission which fuels people’s sense of belonging and purpose.
It is not meant to be complicated
If you are making it difficult to be mindful, you are probably doing it wrong. While it is easy to dismiss it as some woo-hoo or fluffy stuff, there is ample research pointing out how even 15 minutes can ease chronic pain, stress and inflammation. For managers, there are additional benefits ( increased focus, creativity, composure, memory and agility of response) that you could use any time (even repeatedly on tough days). Keep it simple…use your normal exercise routine, simply breathe or stop and sit still for 2 minutes. It may seem uncomfortable at first because we are reinforced to be frantic. But…remember, it is meant to be a practice, not a perfection.
How could your leadership and management style be different if you were more mindful?
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