"We should base our decisions on awareness rather than on mechanical habit. That is, we act on a keen appreciation for the essential factors that make each situation unique instead of from conditioned response"
- The US Marines Corps Book of Strategy
The first question is "What is Mindfulness?" The most quoted definition is from Jon Kabat Zinn, which defines it as "the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non judgementally".
The second question is "Why would we want to introduce Mindfulness into our organisation?"
Well at this stage the internet abounds with countless scientific studies and reports about the benefits of Mindfulness in organisations. So rather than to quote these, let me offer a personal experience from a Global organisation, where I delivered a training course on "Mindfulness Leadership for Managers".
During a break on the course, one of the managers asked to speak to me privately. She told me that two years ago, her new manager had reprimanded her so badly that she felt, and I quote, "my confidence had been destroyed and my soul had been ripped out!" She continued "only now am I beginning to regain my confidence!".
So what has this got to do with Mindfulness? Mindfulness teaches us to "pay attention" to what is "important" at any moment and especially manage our emotional responses in a positive and appropriate way.
In our example, neither the Senior Manager nor the Middle Manager were doing this. If the Senior Manager had been more mindful, he would have been a lot more careful with his "emotional outburst". Because this “outburst” did not only negatively impact his relationship with his Middle Manger but also had a very detrimental impact on her performance and, more importantly, on her personal wellbeing.
However, as a consequence of his "emotional outburst", the Middle Managers’ performance was not anywhere near as good as it could be - for two whole years! Also, apart from the personal cost to the Middle Managers’ performance and well being, what was the cost to the performance of her team and consequently, how much did this cost the organisation financially over two years?
If the Middle Manager had been practicing mindfulness she may also have been mindful that she could recover from an emotionally charged reprimand much quicker and, indeed, not taken it as personally as she did. She may also have, through mindfulness practice, found the courage to have a win/win "difficult conversation" with her Senior Manager.
So what steps can you take to introduce Mindfulness into your organisation?
The Why - Decide "Why" you want to introduce mindfulness into your organisation - how will it benefit the organisation, the teams, the people and very importantly, how will it benefit your clients?
The "Buy-in" - Once you've decided on the "Why", aim to get "buy in" from top management. Look up case studies of organisations that are already developing mindfulness cultures and ideally, measuring the benefits. Relate the benefits to your own organisations needs and outline an overview of "How" you will organise the training. One CEO from a global electronics firm, who had said "no" to the training on a number of occasions, finally decided to go for it once he saw the scientific evidence of the benefits.
The How - Create a pilot training plan. A simple one could be a half-day training in mindfulness, followed by 6 weeks of 90 minute workshops with the aim of improving the practice and its integration into the workplace. So you might start the training on a Tuesday with a half-day workshop and follow up on the next 6 Tuesdays with a 90 minute workshop.
The Who – Ideally, the group will be about 20 participants, across different levels within the organisation. You need to have a big enough group so that they "champion" the training after realising its benefits for them, their teams, the organisation and its clients (of course it needs to be good quality Mindfulness training to achieve this).
The Training - The training must cover at least these two key areas - 1. Training in Mindfulness - theory and practice 2. Training in integrating it into the workplace. For example, applying it to have more effective meetings, to have difficult conversations, to improve performance, to build stronger relationships, to manage emotions, to improve communications and other key core skills.
The Measurable Results – Again, aim to keep it simple - create a pre-course questionnaire and post-course questionnaire. Put the same questions on both and measure the difference before and/or after the training. The questions can relate to key core areas such as overall work performance; relationships, personal wellbeing and satisfaction.
Provided the pilot training has been successful, you then need to build on it with more trainings, practice and integrations. Once the people within your organisation realise the positive benefits of mindfulness and its integration into the workplace, you will also realise that the benefits are cumulative - they keep getting better and better, not only in professional lives but also in personal lives!
Six weeks after I facilitated the "Mindfulness Leadership for Managers" workshop, I followed up with a workshop. During it, the Middle Manager you heard about earlier, stood up in front of the other managers and described that how she applied what was taught, made her more confident, content and positive within herself, with her team, with the organisation and most importantly with her Senior Manager!
Sean has delivered Mindfulness training into companies in Spain, the UK, Luxembourg and Ireland and is a certified trainer of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership course, which was developed by Google. He has been practicing meditation and mindfulness for over 25 years and has trained with Deepak Chopra, the SYDA yoga foundation, the Life Foundation and with the School of Practical Philosophy and Economic Science.
Here's what some course participants had to say:
"The course moved at quite a pace and was thoroughly enjoyable!"
"Very interesting and I'm looking forward to the follow up!"
"I don't give the above ratings lightly - this was the best course I was ever on! Excellent job."
"Excellent knowledge. Amazing real life examples, which really proved his belief in his topic. Brought fun and energy to the session when needed."
About the author
Sean M Kelly is a very accomplished Professional and Personal Development Trainer and Coach with over fifteen years experience in the training industry. He has developed and delivered training to many successful businesses and organisations all over Europe. In general, Sean aims to inspire and show organisations and individuals how to use more of their infinite potential. More specifically he focuses on providing interactive, experiential and empowering training/coaching.