.Australian physicians are saying we have to be careful because mindfulness apps can cause anxiety, especially those that promise results, according to a recent article in Elle Australia. This reminds me of recent reports by Anderson Cooper, which detailed everything from how companies engineer products to get consumers hooked ("brain hacking"), to his cell phone separation anxiety (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/brain-hacking-tech-insiders-60-minutes/). Is a mindfulness app just another ping that adds to the virtual mindless prompt to pick up our phones? Or harmful if we expect life to improve because we use them (and this expectation goes unfulfilled or causes frustration)? Or can the mindfulness apps be useful in giving structure to meditate and enhance our mindfulness? (more on the distinction between meditation and mindfulness later...)
We are in the age of meaning making. Corner offices are being traded for open work spaces. People, executives and staff alike, are seeing the value of direct, transparent ways of working, information sharing, and cultivating community in the workplace. The overload of information from all sources – the Internet chief among them – signals a move to scan and sift through information quickly for its relevancy to our lives at work and at home. And increasingly, people want the metaphorical suit that they wear at home to be the very one they show up in at work – that is, people want to bring themselves, all of themselves, to work.
I have spent the last twenty years inside of non-profits and private sector organizations of all kinds. From my first job post-college at an interactive media company (before this was modus operandi for most businesses), to large hospital systems, universities, colleges, and more. To be fair, the bulk of my career has been spent ensconced in the “mission-driven” public sector. However, to be clear, all businesses are mission-driven companies. The most driven executives and staff inside of an organization believe that they are impacting something and/or someone by their work. There is a “big idea” that all day-to-day action serves (e.g. Apple, “Think Big”). They stay curious and continue to ask questions about their processes, the needs of their customers, whether other businesses or consumers, and the culture and message their company is conveying inside and outside of their walls.
Mindful leaders are the leaders of this generation of companies and workers. They are guided by the 5 C’s: curiosity, clarity, creativity, compassion, and community. Curiosity is the mother force of the rest because without it, leaders stop seeking and become complacent and content with known ways of working. Curious leaders say and can hear from others, “I wonder if…,” followed by a proposal to do things a different way with hopes for an enhanced result or a new result from something that has never been tried before.
Increasingly people aren’t inspired by the bottom line, they’re inspired by passion. It follows then, that staff aren’t inspired by how much money the company makes, but by a leader’s passionate belief in the company’s mission and ability to make an impact. Activating reflection assists in finding great clarity – of mission, of purpose, and of the how to’s (how to enhance product sales, how to engage more customers, etc.).
Like an artist, the creative leader cultivates the skill to look at things from different perspectives, to spot the opportunity behind a challenge, and to initiate finding solutions to problems as quickly and directly as possible.
Finally, the mindful leader is fiercely compassionate. The word compassion often brings up a visceral reaction that connotes “too soft” or compromising. The mindful leader knows that to be unyielding in their compassion is the strongest stance one could take as a leader. This stance demands that the leader take responsibility for the team and for their impact on the team. They take nothing personally. They lead by example and the example includes active listening, thoughtful responses, direct and authentic conversation, transparent action, and valuing people, which is not mutually exclusive with the valuation of your company.
Tips on implementing mindful leadership & creating a mindful, leaderful community:
*Create time and space for open, direct conversation with your team
*Make self-reflection a daily practice, through writing in a journal for example, or shared out on a whiteboard
*Continue your own education by reading and attending executive trainings; better yet, cultivate more leadership in your company by opening the executive training to all (what would your business be like if everyone worked as if they owned the company)
*Take a communal break to breathe together (for example, have as many staff as possible download the same meditation app that chimes at noon every day; even if people don’t stop to eat together in the same space, they can take a quick meditation/breathing break, collectively though apart, and this has resonance)
*Place a problem-solving board in a common space where departments can post their top challenge of the week and other departments can contribute ideas on-the-go…people with different skill sets have a different perspective and may see something the team missed
This list isn’t exhaustive but it’s a start. Breathe and dive in.