Creating A Culture Of Mindfulness
Let me start with a bold statement of psychological fact. Most people in your organization (this probably includes you) are addicted to their point of view. They see conflict, ineptitude, resistance, and disrespect all around them, and they operate on the assumption that what they see is an accurate reflection of what is, rather than a conglomeration of bias and judgement on their part and unresolved communication on the part of others. Thus the wheel of conflict continues to turn, while opportunities for innovation, growth and harmony continue to evade.
Meanwhile, there are organizations that have discovered the Holy Grail of peace, productivity and engagement. Scratch the surface, and what you’ll discover is that a large measure of what fuels that desired state for those organizations comes down to something most organizations haven’t even defined let alone prioritized…mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a state of being awake, aware, and understanding. It’s the opposite of the state in which most organizations exist. That’s because the psychological default for all of us is judgment. We live in our heads, reinforce our existing beliefs, resist change, and point fingers. And what has that wrought?
• 10% of workers describe an atmosphere where physical violence has occurred because of job stress, and in this group 42% report that yelling and other verbal abuse is common
• 29% have yelled at co-workers because of workplace stress; 14% say they work where machinery or equipment has been damaged because of work- place rage; and 2% admit that they have actually personally struck someone
• 19% have quit a previous position because of job stress, and nearly one in four have been driven to tears because of workplace stress
• 62% routinely find that their day ended with work-related neck pain; 44% re- port stressed-out eyes, 38% complain of pain in their hands; and 34% report difficulty in sleeping, all due to stress.
• 12% have called in sick because of job stress • Over half say they often spend 12-hour days on work-related duties and an equal number frequently skip lunch because of the stress of job demands
What if you could help to elevate the level of self awareness, of mindfulness, in your company? What might you expect to see if your employees were no longer operating on automatic biases and judgments, locked into negative thought patterns? What if there were a way to mitigate the effects of stress and to create a more harmonious workplace?
In companies where a mindfulness-based culture exists, employees are happier, healthier, and more engaged. They’re also more likely to dedicate some of their mental real estate to finding ways of doing their jobs better, improving systems, or even inventing entirely new profit centers for you.
And the best part is that there’s virtually no cost to implementing mindfulness-enhancing systems. Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning:
-Encourage silliness… our upbringing supports the notion that work is supposed to be taken seriously. Yet, as leaders we know that the more we discourage frivolity, the more resistance we encounter and the more conflict arises. Companies like Google that have created space for employees to act like kids for short periods throughout the day have discovered that this strategy pays dividends. So, stop fighting human nature, and figure out how to support your employees’ inner child.
-Offer a daily dose of astonishment… research shows that even brief moments of awe, wonder, and astonishment have a measurable effect on productivity. In one study at the University of Melbourne, employees exposed to photographs of awe inspiring scenery for less than a minute increased productivity, performance, and concentration by up to 6%. What could you do to introduce a similar experience for your employees?
-Allow for mindfulness breaks… it’s interesting how smokers are the only employees to take periodic breaks. If we allow smoking breaks, why not mindfulness breaks? A few minutes of fresh air, quiet reflection, and nature, without needing the excuse of a cigarette, can reduce stress and increase job satisfaction. Plus, you’ll be supporting a healthy habit rather than rewarding an unhealthy one.
-Offer meditation classes… Green Mountain Coffee Roasters put in a meditation room and offers guided meditation twice per day for anyone interested. The employer has noted a substantial impact not only on those who’ve taken advantage of the offering but on others in their department in terms of harmony and happiness. Calm is contagious.
Promote communication… self awareness is an acquired skill. Until we’ve mastered it, one of our best tools for developing it is positive communication fueled by active listening. What if your company were to offer a class on how to listen with presence? What effect might it have on employees if they felt they had peers or superiors who could give them space to express themselves without the need to refute or fix anything?
-Make ’em laugh… the research on laughter and good humor is staggering. A good belly laugh every day can stave off ulcers, heart disease, and a host of stress related disorders. How much effort would it take to slip in a joke or a funny video ever day? There’s no shortage of appropriate content from which to draw, and your leadership team can have fun discovering creative ways of surprising your team with the gift of a good laugh.
-Practice mindfulness… of all the tools and techniques I’ve shared and all those I haven’t, there’s one core principle that supersedes them all. You must practice what you preach. It’s virtually impossible to create a culture of mindfulness when leadership lacks that trait themselves. By meditating, taking nature breaks, and steadfastly increasing your level of presence in every moment, you’ll not only improve your quality of life and inner peace, you’ll radiate a serenity that impacts your team. And, as one who has “done the work,” you’re less likely to jump to negative conclusions and judgments, thus making you more approachable and less likely to evoke a negative reaction from others.
Take the time to plan a strategy session with your senior leadership on how to increase mindfulness in your work environment. There’s no downside to this, and the bias against offering services which promote stillness versus activity is just that. A bias. Research doesn’t support it, and the sooner you begin encouraging a mindful workplace, the sooner you’ll begin to see the benefits!
Have you read?
Latest posts by Dr. Steve Taubman
- CAVE GPS: A System for Mindful Leadership - February 12, 2018
- Burnout to Brilliance:Effortlessly Outperform Your Best Year Yet - January 15, 2018
- Creating A Culture Of Mindfulness - January 3, 2018