Mindfulness is currently a hot buzzword in business thanks to proven research that a more mindful culture will help to drive high levels of agility, retention, talent development, customer service and innovation. It also has many individual benefits for employees, such as sharpening your memory, focus and improving your resilience. But what do L&Ds need to consider when trying to implement mindfulness and what are the blocks that can prevent organisations from creating a successfulness culture of mindfulness?
Many people think that mindfulness is about meditation. While this is a tool you can use to become more aware of thoughts and sensations, achieving a mindfulness state does not require you to be an expert in meditation. Mindfulness is a constant, a way of being that affects how we respond throughout the day. But it’s not a technique or ‘quick fix’ to problems, nor as many people think, about emptying the mind or just slowing down.
Instead, real mindfulness is more about creating an ‘inner space’, quietly focusing on breathing, becoming aware of how internal and external stimuli can create knee-jerk responses in your thoughts, emotions and actions. It’s learning how our minds works by studying thoughts or concerns and connecting with what our inner being is guiding us to do in the moment.
While implementing mindfulness organisationally is challenging, organisations that embrace more engaging, empowering and personalised leadership approaches are the ones where mindfulness is really gaining significant traction. They are increasingly becoming magnets for talent, as they have let go of traditional command and control cultures. Below are five core elements of successful mindfulness.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Mindfulness is 1% theory, 99% practice. L&Ds should offer courses or workshops to help teach employees that are new to mindfulness on how to achieve a mindful state. But, if this is to be achieved they have to be given the daily time, space, motivation and encouragement to practice, individually and collectively. Encouraging mindfulness during meetings and conversations is as important as giving someone the opportunity to develop their practice in private.
The right environment
Once you have been practicing mindfulness for some time it’s possible to achieve a state of mindfulness despite what’s going on around you. Yet this can take years of practice and is particularly challenging in the workplace with its constant interruptions and noise, so creating the right environment is vital. Look out for the blocks to mindfulness in the office and help to create a designated quiet place where employees won’t be disturbed by business clutter, noise or technology to let them find that right ‘inner space.’
If an organisation is going to implement mindfulness it has to be done authentically. Every level of management and workforce should be involved including L&D, as you can’t espouse the virtues of mindfulness and instruct everyone to do it if you’re not practicing mindfulness yourself. This authenticity and the ‘why’ mindfulness is essential should also connect naturally to the vision, purpose and strategy of an organisation.
Do you really trust that mindfulness can make a difference? If implemented effectively organisations have to trust mindfulness to work. This can be challenging at first as it might seem like people are actually ‘doing’ less because there can be a decrease in ‘frenetic’ type activity. L&D should shore themselves up with plenty of evidence ahead of any implementation to bolster their belief in the power of the practice and its success in boosting focus, productivity, effectiveness, creativity, emotional intelligence and resilience.
Considerate and thoughtful behaviour by the CEO and senior leadership team is essential to successful mindfulness, as is transparency, discouraging a culture of presenteeism, or expecting employees to constantly check emails out of hours. Mindless behaviour by even the most well-meaning CEO can undermine the success of a mindful culture if they behave in a non-mindful way. L&D should work with management to develop cultural habits that support mindfulness, while encouraging employees to have a well-balanced life outside work will bring benefits to their overall wellbeing.
By incorporating these five core elements L&Ds can create the right culture where mindfulness can thrive and where employees are aware of the blocks that stop it in its tracks. By understanding that too much pressure or too little practice is self-defeating, real breakthroughs can be made and the rewards will soon become evident.
By Carole Gaskell, founder of Full Potential Group, specialists in high-impact coaching, team and leadership development.
About Carole Gaskell
Carole Gaskell is Founder and Managing Director of Full Potential Group, a top leadership and talent development firm. The company has developed over 300,000 people in over 1,000 organisations, including companies such as Nationwide, Tesco, Heinz, United Utilities and Diabetes UK.