Influential leaders do it. According to Peter Drucker, an eminent influential thinker on management, “People who are able to see clearly gain an advantage over those unable to step out of outworn, habitual ways of perceiving— especially when faced with chaos.” Mindfulness challenges our habitual ways of reacting and perceiving.
There is much misunderstanding about what mindfulness, which is often seen only as a tool to “help you relax”, actually is. While relaxation is one of its many benefits, before we reach that relaxed state, we all too often find that we are greeted with a very busy mind that has the natural tendency to distract us. Such distraction can often be unhelpful, with the end result that we default into judging or worrying about something.
Scientific research has found structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation practitioners and those who have no history in practicing meditation. Further research done by Holzel et al. (2007b) is more fascinating. Neuroplasticity is the ability the brain has to change and adapt its structure and function throughout life and in response to our experiences. Holzel et al.’s research showed an increased activation in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) region of the brain as a result of ten minutes of daily mindful breathing practice.
The PFC is linked to the higher functioning part of the brain. It is known as the orchestra of the brain and is responsible for processing our thoughts and actions according to internal goals. It is responsible for emotional regulation, decision making, our impulses, our moods, and more. So now, knowing that we have a tool that can help manage our urges or reactive behaviours, how does mindfulness help you tap into this resource?
Mindfulness promotes self-awareness. This self-awareness extends to your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and emotions. Often, we ignore the powerful messages our bodies are sending us. This results in impulsive decision-making and its opposite, procrastination. Such behaviour has a negative impact on the workplace.
Mindfulness enables you to bring a non-judgemental attitude to the workplace. Ideally such an approach starts with the leaders within the organisation, and these behaviours become contagious when practiced with consistency.
Mindfulness deepens an organisation’s emotional capital, an acknowledged core competency required of business leaders today. Over the last number of years, we have witnessed the economic environment facing what seems to be crisis after crisis. Business is complex, and managing uncertainty is a prerequisite for leading.
Self-awareness is a core competency of emotional intelligence. Practicing mindfulness enhances self-awareness and helps us develop new ways of managing our thoughts and emotions. It cultivates a practice of looking at your thoughts and emotions rather than being driven by them. This practice enables you to deconstruct what is really happening and weakens the tendency to make reactive decisions. It encourages you to pause, take in the nuances of a situation and respond wisely. This is an essential skill, particularly as more workplaces adopt hybrid work.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to tune in to your emotions and to the emotions of others, which enables you to understand the variables at play in any given situation. It helps you manage your emotions and the emotions of others more wisely, which results in better decisions and enhanced relationships. High emotional intelligence endows leaders with creative agile minds that can be flexible yet fully tuned in to any situation and allows for a greater understanding of the dynamics at work within the workforce. It supports enhanced decision-making and deepens connections while promoting authentic communication in your organisation.
Leaders’ behaviours are contagious. Such behaviours impact the businesses they lead, but more crucially the well-being of their staff. Developing leaders who are fully present and who possess the skills to tap into their inner landscapes, along with the ability to detect the fine nuances at play in the work environment, is vital. Such leaders engage staff, are creative, and are agile in responding to today’s complex business environment. To develop such leaders and build the emotional capability of your organisation, mindfulness needs to be included as a core leadership competency in your organisation’s leadership development programme.
Arianna Huffington sums up her practice very succinctly: “Mindfulness is about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected…”
As one of Ibec’s National Workplace Wellbeing Day partners, I will be providing guided mindfulness practices on April 29, 2022. Click here to register.