This morning I read an interesting article on how Harvard University is implementing mindfulness as oppose to a more standard stress management course to tackle well-being issues. You can read it here.
I often encounter scepticism among leaders when I mention mindfulness as a way to increase focus and productivity. It almost sounds like a bad word to them!
I started wondering what it is that I activate in their minds when I mention a practice that- to be honest- has been around for hundreds (or more? ) of years. What’s the perception around it?
In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”
So, essential to mindfulness is the absence of judgment: we observe things and feelings for what they are, without the attempt to change them, but just experiencing them as they manifest in the present.
Practical example: imagine you are in a meeting, and your mind drifts off to other places, so your focus is lost, your attention is compromised. Imagine that happening every day and perhaps even transforming it into performance anxiety… Imagine also you had the skill of mindfully bringing yourself back to the present moment, without been pulled out the meeting from your endless todo list.
Imagine also you can develop the skill of being mindful and carve some time to reset every time you feel overwhelmed and out of control.
Wouldn’t that skill in the long term have an impact on your behaviour, emotions, leadership, performance and -above all- health?
There are now several pieces of research that prove that a regular mindfulness practice (or meditation or controlled breathing practice or body scan or…!) can affect our brains by increasing the volume of our grey matter, which is associated with processing information faster. This research comes after the discovery that our brains are plastic, meaning they can be changed. If they can change, it means we have some control over it.
It clearly appears that the health of a leader is essential to the individual performance, hence to the overall company’s performance.
After all, leaders are paid to use their brains! What is it that stops us from looking after them?
I realise it’s a lot about changing the old perception we have about leadership. That idea that leaders are expected to run on the treadmill constantly- ignoring the pressure and anxiety that their roles bring- is what has brought us to today burnout era.
The skills of quietening the mind is now an essential one to be able to navigate the world of leadership in a more human and healthier way. It’s about training our mind- now that we know it’s scientifically possible- to develop calmness, empathy, clarity and consequently nurturing our energy and focus.
So, if you ever think that mindfulness is a one those soft skills that is not worth investing in, think about the long-term effects on your health, and the ripple effects on your teams and company.
Kokoro Consultancy is all about creating a space where people are able to nurture their mindsets and feelings (their kokoro), developing the resilience and self-awareness they need to become more positive and productive, in life and at work.
If you as a leader have the courage to allow space and time for self-nurturing you will be creating the basis for a culture of trust and humanity.
If you like what you read and are intrigued by my approach on coaching for employee engagement, contact me!
I am always happy to share ideas and sometimes they grow into business opportunities.
I’d almost forgotten! I am running a series of workshops on resilience from the 15th of May. If you want to know more, visit this page and if you like the format and would like me to bring my Kokoro resilience program where you are, email me and we will work out something.
Until the next one ….
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