By some, it is considered a 2000 year project, the benefits that Buddhist meditators have experienced has brought mindfulness meditation into the mainstream. Organisations and households are becoming aware that there is something of immense value in taking time to stop, training the mind to be in the present, and cultivating compassion for our fellow humans. As leaders, each of us is in an incredibly powerful position to cast either a ray of sunshine or a dark cloud on those we lead. It is therefore our duty to continually evolve and improve our ability to relate to others as well as improve our leadership capacity. A growing body of neuroscience is evidencing the value of this work. The reality is none of us is getting out of here alive, so we may as well make the most of it.
Here are 13 tips on how to cultivate mindful leadership in your organisation:
1. Leading with heart – by bringing your heart to work with you. Relying solely on your head and logic to make decisions can sometimes be at the cost of a more humane way of engaging with those who work for you. In a corporate environment, compassion can support your organisation in coming alive. Richard Branson has been quoted as saying ‘Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients’. It means bringing compassion to your team whether it is their behaviour, their attitudes or indeed their skill. Remember you are the leader, so it is your role to model the best possible way of behaving. They may not always agree with you but they will respect you and even admire your commitment to ideals and values that are steadfast.
2. Introspection enables you to get clear – going within allows the mind to settle and get clear about what is really important whether that is the next big strategic direction you want to take or where you should spend your time. Training your mind to settle enables the incessant continual thoughts to quieten down and affords the rare gems a chance to shine. Particularly your vision and real values. Mindfulness offers leaders the opportunity to gain more time, by slowing things down so they can make the most efficient action when they do act. Most people spend and waste a lot of time each day worrying about the same things and not pointing their arrow at the right targets. Training the mind helps you to be clear about what the target is, and shoot with a greater aim.
3. Remember the why – remember why you got into this business in the first place. Connect that why with a passionate purpose and link it with your team's original whys. By connecting their hearts to your purpose, you harness a great deal of energy and goodwill. It is simply the best long term driver of behaviour.
4. Be here now with gratitude - so often we lose precious time and golden moments to appreciate the people we have working with us. Often we focus on the negative not seeing the positive around us. Training the mind to stay in the present moment enables your peripheral vision to widen so you can take in more of those magic moments, and soften the hard lines around your perception. Bringing a sense of gratitude to what you have, will open up more opportunities to be grateful. It’s happening anyway so why not enjoy it?!
5. Share your knowledge and your skill – a real leader teaches others to become leaders, they don’t hoard their skills for themselves. They share what they know so that others can grow. They do not feel threatened by their team member’s success; they celebrate it. A leader is only ever successful by the team that they build around them, so it is in the leader’s interest to nurture and grow that team to the best of their ability.
6. Listen with your soul – so much gets said and unfortunately more is not said at all in the everyday course of a working week. So much gets pushed under the carpet, ignored or dismissed. Really listening to the undercurrent of your organisation's heartbeat means pulling up the carpet and taking a real look at what is working well and what isn’t, with a real desire to improve the quality of working life of all those involved. Our lives are precious; staff want to work for people that share their values, that care about them and feel that their opinion, whether constructive or even deemed negative, is given consideration. With this approach, you will become aware of things that you never knew, many of which will place you and your company in a better position.
7. Seek feedback always – It isn’t good enough to just look for self-affirming feedback. It is far more important to seek out the critical less easy to hear feedback. Remember a constructive piece of input is far more valuable than a positive piece because with constructive feedback you can learn from it, grow and improve. If one person on your team sees something that you consider to be negative then it is time to sit up and take note of their perspective. You don’t have a whole world view from where you are sitting, others see things differently and from different angles and these angles are vital to a successful organisation. It helps you to see things before they become an issue. That’s why diversity is so beneficial to successful organisations, it means that your product or service will meet the needs of a whole host of other markets. If you take the ostrich approach you are heading for trouble.
8. Always be honest – the sad fact is that most people leave their managers not their jobs. In today’s world, people want their work and their organisations to align with their own personal values and in the main, these are honesty and integrity. Not simply to be put in a frame and placed on the wall or as part of a mission statement, but to be lived in each encounter and with each breath. Teams would much rather that you are honest in the face of adversity so that they can troubleshoot, brainstorm and be of support than to be left in the dark. Even if the worst things happen a leader’s honesty with them will leave them feeling far more involved and valued than being side-lined and excluded.
9. Give feedback quietly – if and when you do see areas for improvement within your team, be sure to give feedback promptly and when you see it. Don’t wait for the 360 reviews to let them know of things they could improve on, do it on the spot. The sooner you rectify something that needs it the quicker they can learn from it and grow. If you have critical feedback to give be sure to do so in private, as to do so publicly can be humiliating and create unnecessary emotional reactions including defensiveness. More importantly, ask them do they agree with the feedback and how they would suggest improving things.
10. Create good team habits – use your opportunity as a mindful leader to create moments for the team to reflect together be that at the beginning of a meeting, the start of the day, or a project. Create moments that connect them with their values and of the organisations so that they are clear why they are doing what they are doing, and offer the opportunity to consider all the opportunities and barriers that might stand in the way of success. Allowing time for this ensures that every angle is explored with honesty.
11. Cultivate the art of curiosity – to be curious is a wonderful thing, it brings a sense of wonder with it but also an openness to learn. If you are truly curious you will want to learn about everything in life. You will read and share that reading with others. You will continually evolve and grow. Nothing is constant in life, only change, therefore learn to be flexible and open to what being in flow brings. Cultivate a love of learning, because it is within learning that we can expand our minds, our perception and our reality. It also brings humility that perhaps we don’t have all the answers, something that many leaders feel that they need in order to be respected. However, honest curiosity brings far greater respect than the need to have all the answers.
12. Ending things well – for whatever reasons people on your team will leave and go, some voluntary and some involuntary. How you deal with that will ultimately resonate throughout your organisation. Imagine seeing the world from their eyes, what would you see? Bring compassion to your dealings and treat people humanely. Ensure that all your dealings are with integrity, and involve the team in the decisions that affect them, with authenticity. Be a leader, acknowledge their contribution and end things respectfully.
13. Celebrate – take time to celebrate all the good that your team achieve, acknowledge them publicly for their contribution as they have worked hard for it. No amount of money will give them job satisfaction more than the recognition and praise of their leaders. It is worth far more when genuinely and authentically given.
If you want to learn more about getting the best out of your team by leading mindfully and with heart contact me to see how we can work together at firstname.lastname@example.org