Mindfulness

With its roots in Taoist and Buddhist meditation, Mindfulness is now a common organisation concept and is being practiced by many executives as a means of reducing stress and adopting a more considered approach to decision making. Mindfulness means having an “in the now” sense and awareness of thoughts, feelings, body and environment. Thoughts and feelings are held impartially and without being judged and there is, at that moment, no right or wrong to them.The value of Mindfulness is that it offers a process to measure and manage life as it is being lived rather than stress too much about the future or worry too much about the past.

CLARITY AND DEEPER UNDERSTANDING

Bill George, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard and former Chair and CEO at Medtronic,recognises how challenging it is for managers to develop Mindfulness as a practice and to even have the ability to “quiet your mind” to enable it.While he readily acknowledges meditation is not for everyone, he believes Mindfulness helps leaders to create clarity about what is important and enables a deeper understanding of the world around us. George believes Mindfulness clears away the trivia and worries around unimportant issues thus allowing the leader to nurture passion for their work, compassion for others and the ability to empower employees.

MINDFUL OR MINDLESS

Ellen Langer, a pioneer of Mindfulness and a psychology Professor at Harvard,sees Mindfulness as the process of actively noticing new things, putting a person in the present to become more sensitive to context. She believes this to be important in creating better performance in leaders who perform regular tasks and might otherwise become stale,reducing their creativity and effectiveness. Langer believes every act we undertake from eating to performing a work task, we do mindfully or mindlessly.When it’s the former, it leaves an imprint on what you do.

MINDFULNESS AND HIGH PERFORMANCE

Google are one of the many global organisations that have embraced Mindfulness and offers it’s employees several mindfulness courses.The most popular of these courses is called “Search Inside Yourself”. Google believes this helps people to relate better to colleagues and generally to develop higher levels of emotional intelligence.The programme was developed by a Google engineer called Chade-Meng Tan, along with some of his colleagues. Meng believes that six seconds of Mindfulness is enough to make a difference and describes how aVP colleague at Google developed the ability to take a “mindful breath” directly before entering a meeting room to reset her body and mind for that meeting. Meng believes the mindful breath works by lowering stress and calming a person at a key moment in time. He describes how some of the World’s best athletes use this process and shares that tennis number one Novak Djokovic uses this mental technique to reset himself in mere seconds during a game.

It is sometimes tempting to be cynical about meditation and particularly in the work place. Its personal nature means attempts by organisations to unilaterally demand their employees engage in Mindfulness practices will do little to alleviate this. Mindfulness needs to be a self-chosen path and if it continues to grow as an opportunity for employees and leaders to develop their own methodology for reducing anxiety and stress while optimising personal performance and fulfilment, it will be quite a cultural revolution.