The world seems to be raving about mindfulness right now and some of the most successful companies including Google, Apple, Yahoo and Nike have invested in mindfulness training for their employees, writes Stacey Ashley
For those who are still a little unclear as to what mindfulness really is, it is simple practice of learning to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of the thoughts in our minds and the feelings and sensations in our body.
Rather than being reacting to the thousands of negative thoughts that flow through our minds, those who practice mindfulness learn to observe these thoughts in a non-judgmental manner training themselves to have a more balanced and ‘ in the moment’ approach to life.
One of the key principles of mindfulness surrounds only taking action when thoughts and feelings have slowed down. This allows individuals to focus in the moment and pay attention to the environment around them. When in this state, people make better choices about how they spend their time and what to focus on, rather than rushing around from meeting to task.
In quieting down our mental chatter, mindfulness reduces knee jerk emotional reactiveness, laying the foundation for calm and improved decision making and communication in the workplace. Mindfulness techniques are also linked to higher performance, an increased ability for people to focus their attention in a dynamic, task-focused way and improved team working and collaboration.
The benefits of mindfulness
Interestingly, one of the most documented benefits of mindfulness in the workplace is for leaders and executives as the technique allows them to become more adaptable and flexible in their environment and move into new ways of listening, leading and responding.
Leaders practising mindfulness not only exhibit higher levels of emotional intelligence, including emotional self-management and empathy, but are able to respond more effectively to highly complex and volatile situations. In addition, any decisions made from a mindful state create more effective and efficient outcomes.
When it comes to building stakeholder relationships, those working from a mindful state have an advantage in the way that they relate to the people around them. Many of us forget that in any relationship, organisational or otherwise, there is a bank account of emotional experiences and at any point in time, we can choose to contribute to this bank in a positive (deposit) way or negative (withdrawal) way.
When we are mindful and present with other people, it means positive deposits are being made to your relationship bank account as you are interacting with people with intent and authenticity.
Listening with mindfulness
People really recognise mindful behaviour – particularly during conversations and meetings. When you consciously choose to be present when listening to others, you really tune into what people have to say and become a genuine participant rather than just taking part in a conversation for appearances sake. This is a great experience for the person that you are talking with as they feel you are actively engaged with them … rather than just half listening.
Improving organisational relationships
The more this happens, the more you will find an increasing bank balance of positive relationships to work with and going forward, when you do find yourself in a situation where you need to draw on that relationship you’ve already got the balance to do so! This in turn creates a strong network of relationships to draw on for the skills, support, resources that you may need.
Being mindful in organisational relationships also increases emotional awareness and increasing understanding of others points of view. Empathy is increased as is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and find that golden win – win situation.
Meeting new people or at an important networking event? Make sure you aware of the need to contribute to each of the conversations you have and appreciate what others bring to a relationship.
Being mindful in this situation includes really listening, and the best way to demonstrate this is to ask a great question related to the information somebody has just shared with you. People love to share what they know, so a great question and really listening to the answer creates connection, the first step in nurturing a new relationship in your network.
In conclusion, mindfulness is not so much something you achieve, as it is something that you practice doing in your daily life and it is really worth the effort!
An exercise in mindfulness
Try using a balanced inhale/exhale breathing cycle to bring your body into the present. Simply inhale for 6 seconds and then exhaling for 6 seconds. Try to do this each morning for a few minutes at a time.
Stacey Ashley is managing director of Ashley Coaching & Consulting, which works with senior leaders across Australia, helping them discover how to become authentic leaders, achieve their potential and to bring out the best in the people around them. She is also an accredited mBraining practitioner and coach trainer.