Mindfulness is defined as: “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens,” according to Greater Good Magazine.
It has long been hailed as a beneficial mind state for our health and wellbeing, and as a leader, you can benefit from bringing mindfulness to your job as well.
Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute explains that the following are benefits of mindful leadership:
- Improved intuition
- Reduced fight or flight response, which in turn, reduces stress
- Better emotional control
- Reduced procrastination
- Increased happiness, among you and your team
As the final benefit suggests, mindful leadership not only benefits you but the people you manage, too. When you’re more calm and tuned in, you’re able to better lead the people around you. Bring mindful leadership into the workplace to reap the many benefits.
Quantify Your Mindfulness Efforts
Convincing the c-suite or decision-makers is always a challenge when bringing new initiatives to the workplace. While you can’t technically quantify mindfulness, you can quantify the potential cost benefits, creating an ROI for your efforts, which appeals to the people who will approve or deny the initiative.
Tay & Val, co-founders of M Meditation suggest doing so by starting with the “why,” which requires you to answer some questions: “What are the challenges the company/you/your team are wanting to address? What are the ambitions and vision the company is moving towards?”
Tay & Val give an example of how you can turn the answers to those questions into ROI: “Through mindful leadership, you’re wanting to create a culture of innovation, collaboration, and growth in your team, so as to help you navigate the upcoming phase of market transition, expansion, or even IPO.”
This can be presented side-by-side with what you need to make it happen, from budget for training to extra time for connecting with employees.
Start a Mindful Meeting Initiative
When our minds wander, we zone out, and it’s easy to let this happen in meetings. The average professional spends three hours each week in meetings, according to Doodle, making this an opportunity for you to translate mindful leadership into mindful meetings.
To turn employees into mindful participants, and you into a mindful meeting leader, try these three simple tips, shared by Janice Marturano, founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, in How to Be More Mindful at Work:
- No phones or computers allowed at meetings, whenever possible.
- If you need a note taker, have one person act as secretary and circulate the notes afterward.
- Give everyone who is present the opportunity to speak, uninterrupted.
Take it one step further by creating “mindful meeting rules.” Send them around the office via email and keep them outside all your meeting spaces so both you, and the rest of your employees, remember to be active and engaged.
Listen More, Talk Less
You have a lot of ideas, but listening more and talking less is a key component of bringing thoughtful leadership to your workplace in 2020. Tay & Val explain, “Most people have been conditioned to listen in order to answer, versus listening to understand.”
This is especially true for leaders, as Tay & Val continue, “Sometimes leaders jump in to provide answers and solutions before their team members have even finished speaking. It’s human to want to problem-solve. But more often than not, people will come up with effective solutions themselves when they get to finish what they are saying.”
To get more mindful, focus on using active listening techniques, which include:
- Nod to show you’re listening.
- Repeat back what was said when responding.
- Ask clarifying questions.
- Reflect on what you’re hearing with phrases like, “What I hear you saying is…”
These techniques force you to truly listen to what’s being said, rather than interrupting or focusing on your response.
Be Thoughtful in Decision Making
To bring mindful leadership to the workplace, focus on slowing down in your decision-making process. Entrepreneurs’ Organization explains why this is important:
“When you pause and bring awareness to your biases, judgments, and emotions, you empower better decisions. Check in ―are your emotions tricking you into thinking that you're making the right decision when you're actually just fulfilling an emotional response? Do a quick mental and emotional check, make the decision, and move on.”
As a leader, making decisions is one of your most important jobs—employees look to you to know what to do and when to do it. Make sure that you’re making the best, most mindful decision possible by slowing down and being thoughtful before responding.
To get yourself into the mindset of slowing down, initiate a rule that you wait at least one hour to respond to questions, whether that’s via email or in-person. Unless the question is time-sensitive, this will allow space for being more thoughtful.
Take Mindful Breaks
Like anything, being mindful as a leader takes practice. To hone your mindfulness skills in the workplace, set mindful breaks using your phone alarm. When the alarm goes off, stop what you’re doing, find a quiet space, and tune in to what’s going on in your mind and your body.
The best way to do this is to use mindful breathing, which is a simple process that looks like this:
- Turn your focus to your breathing, taking slow deep breaths in and out. To stay focused, pay attention to the air coming in through your nostrils or count each breath in and out.
- Take note of anything that keeps coming up. Thoughts will continually rise to the surface and if something keeps coming back, consider what that means. Do you need to deal with a situation but are avoiding it? Are you frustrated with a project and need to go to someone for help? Acknowledge the thoughts, avoid judging them and let them guide you.
- After acknowledging thoughts, turn your focus back to your breathing. You will constantly be turning back to the breath—this is the practice and what helps you cultivate the mindfulness you want to bring as a leader.
Bring Mindfulness to the Workplace
Being mindful benefits every area of your life, especially your role in the workplace. Use these ideas to bring mindful leadership to everything you do, from decision-making to meeting participation, and encourage your employees to do the same. Together, you can reduce stress, get more intentional, and listen better, all of which will also benefit the business’s bottom line.