The Power of Mindfulness in Building A Better Culture at Work

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Have you ever considered how mindfulness can impact your work culture? Do you think it’s possible to build a better culture through mindfulness? Well, read on because there is some fascinating research that shows how mindfulness can improve culture in many ways—particularly if leaders and teams adopt this practice.

Learning how to be mindful is a very individual practice with a collective benefit. Check out the research below on what becoming more mindful can do for our collective intelligence.

Most organizations that encourage mindfulness practices amongst their employees benefit from employee well-being, which makes sense; a regular mindfulness practice can help us with clarity of thinking, better concentration, and staying calm under pressure. But there are plenty of other powerful and fascinating benefits to this practice!

Read on to learn more about how mindfulness can positively impact our individual mindset and workplace culture as a whole.

Mindfulness can Improve Collective Intelligence

Mindfulness helps us make better decisions through better concentration, learning to stay calm under pressure and being able to think more strategically. It can even improve 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. Interestingly, collective intelligence is not affected by an individual team member’s IQ or ability to think logically.

What increases collective intelligence is more about the unconscious processing of the team members—things like their emotional intelligence, sense of trust and feelings of psychological safety. These unconscious processes have been shown to increase through learning mindfulness.

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 percent 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 practices reported 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?

Three Ways to Create a Better Culture Through Mindfulness

1. Shift Yourself First

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 are willing to shift yourself first.

If you are an organizational or team leader, you have a choice. You can have a busy and exhausting culture 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. (Another organization I work with,  BCALM, is an excellent place to take a course in mindfulness.)

This is what Scott Shute, the VP of Global Customer Operations at LinkedIn, did. As a regular meditator, he started leading mindfulness meditation classes at work and volunteered to create an official mindfulness program to incorporate other mindfulness practices.

But 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 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 yourself. Find others practicing mindfulness and work together to articulate 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 adopting 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.

2. Employee Training

The most common way organizations successfully shift culture through mindfulness is by offering training throughout the organization to individuals in workshops, webinars, coaching, and/or Apps.

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. 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).

Another individual I interviewed for my book, Melissa Barton, 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 healthy way?

3. 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 more mindful ideas into your team meetings, try some ideas laid out in the Mindful Workplace Alliance Playbook:

  • 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 the 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 their feelings (emotional awareness.)

The benefits of these methods can be remarkable, are increasingly being measured, and show 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 close to 40 percent 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 percent of our workplace interactions this mindful? (Even 50 percent!) Just imagine the impact this would have.

Get Help Building a Better Culture with Mindfulness

Are you interested in making positive changes to help your team or organization be happier, healthier and more productive? I’d love to help! Get started by sending me a message.

You can also download the Introduction & Chapter 1 from my book (if you like what you’re reading, you can buy the complete book (which is 25% off with coupon code BookGift25 until Dec. 31/22) or get a digital version online at Amazon, Apple Books, and other outlets.)

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Deborah Connors

Deborah Connors teaches leaders to radically shift culture so that people can flourish. She is an engaging speaker, storyteller, author and coach.

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