What do you think of when you hear the word mindfulness?
Some envision a group of chanting ‘hippies’ communing in nature, while others see an orange robed bald guy sitting in the mountains. A growing number of people, though, are using mindfulness to create successful and peaceful businesses and lives.
OK, I confess! I believe I was a flower child in a former life. I do love to commune in nature, chanting brings me joy and inspiration, and I love yoga and hula hooping.
However… I’m also a suit. Yeah. I like wearing suits (not quite as much as yoga pants). And I love business and leadership. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I started my first business when I was 12 years old – selling Regal. I dabbled in a few similar businesses over the years, spent many years helping other businesses, and finally, in my mid-30s, bought an electrical franchise that lasted two years.
I spent my entire adult life seeking out ‘deep’ conversations about life and learning, how to continuously grow as a person, and how human behaviours impact our world. I didn’t find them easily. When I was 23, I became a single mom and my priority was to raise my daughter to respect herself, others, and the world… to grow as a person and be full of love. I advised all of my friends who were fearful of having children that all you need is love (that was my wedding song too – “All You Need is Love”). Many people thought I was a little crazy to not follow society’s rules in parenting, rather use love and empathy as my key parenting tools. My daughter is now 20 and a beautiful, wise soul who is making a significant contribution in this world (she’s also an excellent employee). In my 30s I began to learn about emotions, awareness, perceptions, fear, worry, guilt, integrity, neuroplasticity, thoughts… the list goes on.
Eventually, I learned the word mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, describes mindfulness as:
“paying attention in a particular way;
On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness is not meditation. Meditation is a tool (a really good one) used to cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness has an element of inquiry about your emotions, responses, and behaviors.
I realized I’d spent 20 years learning how to be more mindful. I parented with mindfulness. I did not marry until I met a mindful partner. I lead my team with mindfulness. My electrical business was not mindful and out of alignment with me, hence, it failed. My most effective business relationships were mindful. Struggles appeared in business and life when I was not mindful.
So what does mindfulness have to do with business? Everything.
Business is about people and relationships. You hire people. You fire people. You manage people. You are managed. You work with partners and suppliers. You communicate with stakeholders. You want to please your customers… you want them to be cheerleaders! We all know this. The relationship we often forget, and the one that effective relationships begin with, is your relationship with you.
Imagine working in an environment in which people were positive, solution-oriented, and highly productive. People were present with each other and made to feel important. In this environment employees collaborate. Suppliers deliver on time. Leaders inspire. Conversations with stakeholders are effective. Customers are happy. Teams are creative. And there’s no such thing as Tums or Rolaids!
This environment is not only possible, but it exists. Companies like Google, Intel, Nike, Starbucks, Aetna, and many more have introduced mindfulness programs for a happier, more peaceful and productive work environment – and they are not doing anything in their businesses unless it works!
Here’s the kicker. You have to start with you. Having a mindful work environment doesn’t happen unless YOU are mindful. You need to cultivate your own compassion, empathy, resilience, self-awareness, acceptance, non-judgement, and peace of mind (no robes required). That’s the beginning.
Many employees dread Mondays and can’t wait for Fridays. Many managers and leaders are overwhelmed. Engagement statistics are lower than ever. Problem-solving and productivity are areas of concern for many organizations. Stress is an epidemic in the workplace. We spend almost one third of our lives at work (more than that if you’re a business owner!). Yet, work makes many people miserable, and that is spread around to families and communities, causing a glut of social and health issues – not to mention the resulting organizational challenges.
Mindfulness is thousands of years old. About 40 years ago, it began to be used to treat stress. In recent years, mindfulness has gone viral! Leaders are realizing that mindfulness is the answer to problem-solving, better relationships, more creativity, higher vitality, higher focus, and a greater sense of peace and happiness. Organizations have implemented workplace programs as simple as reminders to take a mindful breath to full meditation and yoga programs. The underlying commonality, though, is that mindfulness is considered in all organizational processes, policies, structures, behaviors, and attitudes.
Mindfulness creates connections and connections create relationships – ultimately, the key success factor for organizations. You can roll out a yoga mat, sit cross-legged chanting ‘om’ (give your colleagues a chuckle if nothing else), or simply calm your mind and investigate your responses and reactions as they occur. Your journey is YOUR journey. However, there is no doubt that mindfulness is an advantage for organizational success. So like any advancement in business or life – just get started and see what happens… and tweak along the way.
Tina Pomroy is the President of Pomroy Consulting and is a Harmony and Wellness Partner. She uses a holistic approach for helping leaders and managers create healthy and productive workplaces. She provides group and individual coaching, consulting, and training, with her key programs including Mindful Management, Business Buddha, and Create Your Culture. Tina is a Certified Human Resources Professional and has completed a Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration, and a Certificate of Mastermind Executive Coaching. Her mission is to create workplaces in which people are happy contributors and businesses that thrive. To learn more about Tina, you can find her on LinkedIn, or visit Pomroy Consulting on Facebook or Twitter.