09 Mar 3 Powerful Ways to Create a Better Culture with Mindfulness (And Why You Need To!)
Most organizations that encourage mindfulness practices amongst their employees do this for the benefit of employee well-being, as it offers clarity of thinking, better concentration, and the ability to stay calm under pressure.
However, there are some other very powerful and fascinating benefits to this practice. Because of the impacts mentioned above, mindfulness helps leaders (and anyone) to make better decisions by thinking more strategically. (Goleman and Davidson; Wharton Education)
Most fascinating to me is the research on how mindfulness improves collective intelligence in teams. Collective intelligence is the capability of a group of people to solve complex problems, offering a competitive advantage in today’s business world. Collective intelligence is not affected by an individual team member’s IQ or logical thinking ability, but is driven by the unconscious processing of the members—things like their emotional intelligence, their sense of trust, and their feelings of psychological safety. The Boston Consulting Group and Awaris studied the effects of a 10-week mindfulness program on 31 teams, comprised of 196 people, in a German automotive company. They measured collective intelligence using tests from the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence and found a 13% increase after the mindfulness program’s completion. Among the reasons listed for the increase were team members’ self-awareness, ability to regulate reactions to emotions and behaviours, increased empathy, and an ability to listen better to each other.
Finally, those companies with well-ingrained mindfulness programs and practices report more positive cultures where people are more helpful, caring, and generous. They are simply nicer to each other! Could your workplace use a little dose of this?
3 Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Culture
- Start with You
As Dr. Robert Quinn explains in The Deep Change Field Guide: A Personal Course to Discovering the Leader Within, it is impossible to expect organizational or team transformation unless you can first change yourself. If you are one of the leaders of the organization, you have a choice. You can have a culture that is busy and exhausting, where people are overextended and underutilized, or you can create a culture where mindfulness, good decision-making, and collective intelligence are nurtured. Learn how to practice mindfulness yourself and become the executive sponsor in your organization. This is what Scott Shute, the VP of Global Customer Operations at LinkedIn did. As a regular meditator himself, he started leading mindfulness meditation classes at work, and also volunteered to create an official mindfulness program to incorporate other mindfulness practices.
You don’t have to be an executive leader to be an early adopter of mindfulness practices in your organization and lead by example. In an interview I did with Dr. Michael West in my book, A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture, West notes that adopting new practices such as these does not have to start at the top. But he suggests that if you are trying to influence change from within, don’t try to do it by yourself. He says that minorities can bring about change in organizational communities by forming a small group of committed people who share their vision. Find others who are practicing mindfulness and work together to articulate some clear messages about how mindfulness practices will benefit the organization (or your team), what practices you suggest, and how the organization (or team) can start to adopt them. Continue to repeat those messages and suggest creative ways to move forward. Model the behaviours that you wish to see, such as mindful listening.
- Individual Training
The most common way that organizations incorporate mindfulness practices is by offering training throughout the organization to individuals in the form of workshops, webinars, coaching and/or Apps. For example, Emotional Intelligence Expert Daniel Goleman, and University of Wisconsin Neuroscientist Richard Davidson, reviewed thousands of articles on mindfulness studies looking for those with rigorous scientific standards used in their research. Those studies that met the gold standard revealed four benefits of mindfulness for individuals: stronger focus, staying calmer under stress, better memory, and good corporate citizenship. (Goleman)
These studies showed that to get these benefits, the training necessary was three ten-minute sessions of mindfulness throughout the day (in this case, mindfulness meditation, focusing on your breath).
Melissa Barton, another individual I interviewed for A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture, is the past Director of Organizational Development & Healthy Workplace at Sinai Health System in Toronto. They incorporated mindfulness training into their overall organizational health strategy by teaching employees to reflect through journaling exercises on a range of questions:
- How am I reacting to the change?
- What is my emotional state like?
- Where am I in the change process?
- How, then, am I going to be able to lead my team in a way that is healthy?
- Team Development
When team positivity increases, people feel more engaged, creative, innovative and productive. They become better “possibility thinkers.” One of the practices that increases positivity is mindfulness. To incorporate mindfulness into your team meetings try some of the ideas laid out in the Mindful Workplace Alliance Playbook here:
- One minute of silence at the beginning of the meeting (called “A minute to arrive”) to help increase attentiveness throughout the meeting.
- Device-free meetings to keep focus on the conversations in the room.
- Learning mindful listening to improve communication and support for each other.
- Personal/professional check-in at the beginning of the weekly team meeting to allow people to share how they are feeling (emotional awareness.)
The benefits of any of these methods can be remarkable, are increasingly being measured, and are showing significant results. For example, as West and colleagues took the mindfulness research to the team level and asked teams to do mindful debriefs at the end of each meeting (time to reflect for 3-4 minutes at the end of meetings to review how the team worked together) they found that these teams, on average, were 25% more effective.
West says that the single most important behaviour in the workplace is attending to the other and being present: in other words, learning to pay attention and to listen in conversations. These skills are fundamental to great leadership. What if we set the goal to make at least 80% of our workplace interactions this mindful? (Even 50%!) Just imagine the impact this would have.
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