Mindfulness is a hot topic in many organizations for good reason. Leading a team or an entire company can be all-consuming, stressful and taxing on our energy, sleep and decision making abilities. Studies have found that when leaders practice mindful leadership, they feel better which means those they lead feel better — productivity, effectiveness and satisfaction all increase.
Stress is one of the most cited causes of mental and physical complaints about carrying out job tasks and the costs to organizations of medical claims due to stress is enormous — about $300 billion per year, ouch. In today’s world, many of us are at work more than we’re home or elsewhere and the pressure increases with the amount of information we have to learn and the tasks we must complete in a certain amount of time.
I remember that moment when I looked around my office and realized my kids were spending more time in my office than we were at home. For a while, they thought it was fun and cool to hang out in mom’s office, but that didn’t last long. Also, I didn’t start my business to be that mom who was all work and no play. I found myself stressed out about getting enough work done to grow my publishing company, spending too much time working and ignoring my kids and husband and not getting enough rest myself. Where was the so-called work/life balance everyone was talking about? It seemed unrealistic and unattainable in that moment.
I turned to some of the daily mindfulness practices that I hadn’t been making time for like meditation, journaling and Zentangle®, a meditative form of drawing that helps me to relax and focus on staying in the present. These tools were exactly what I needed in order to get a fresh perspective on how I was leading my business and myself. What was I modeling for my team and my family? In that moment I knew that I needed to make some changes.
Mindfulness is defined as “paying attention in a particular manner: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” It can be achieved in the work place by focusing on thoughts and emotions rather than getting the job done as fast as possible. This can seem counterintuitive when companies are focused on ramping up productivity. Ramping up productivity without allowing space for mindfulness-based practices is a recipe for burnout, stress and illness.
An unhappy, unhealthy workplace is neither creative nor productive.
It’s not enough to talk about mindfulness in the workplace. I believe that as leaders it’s imperative that we model mindfulness as essential to our leadership style and personal well-being.
I will often spend 10 to 15 minutes in the morning working on a Zentangle® tile while listening to a book or inspiring podcast. I find that taking this time centers me and leaves me feeling refreshed. This simple form of mindfulness keeps my hands busy which allows my mind to focus. I also do this during meetings, client calls or other times where I find myself being easily distracted and I need to be listening intently.
There are many proven benefits of Mindful Leadership, including:
Thinking outside the box. Companies are clamoring for more creativity and innovation in the workplace. In fact, according to this year’s study by LinkedIn, creativity is the #1 soft skill companies are seeking in new hires. A calm, relaxed mind is a more creative mind.
Improving focus and clarity of thought. Distraction in the workplace and the home life are challenging to overcome with the speed and sheer number of inputs we are inundated with daily from email, Slack, social media, text and other media. Mindfulness practices help leaders and their teams to sift through the noise to zero in on what matters in the moment.
Better mood and more positive emotions. As that busy mom building a business a decade ago, I had some difficult choices to make. When I was stressed and working too many hours, I was grumpy, often yelling at my kids or feeling too tired to spend time with them. And my husband… who? About a decade ago I discovered Zentangle®, a meditative form of drawing that became my go to source for finding calm and restoring my mood so that I was present in a positive way with my loved one.
Less panic and feelings of guilt. As the owner of a parenting magazine, there were many moments of panic and guilt and the panic often felt extreme during the downturn of the economy in 2008–2009. My mindfulness practice kept me from spewing the panic on my team and my family.
While Mindful Leadership is becoming more of a staple in companies’ leadership training programs and is considered a necessary topic in most management training classes, I think we need to find new and creative ways to model mindfulness as leaders.
Mindfulness is gaining wide attention now because organizations are becoming more cognizant of what effective leadership requires of us. Findings are that mindful leaders are self-aware, creative and compassionate. They are also focused and confident in directing the vision of their companies to financial success without sacrificing the health and wellbeing of their employees.
When aspiring leaders learn how to focus on one task at a time and turn their attention to the larger vision rather than numerous small tasks, they tend to become much more effective managers and leaders.
If you want to become a true leader of a team or organization, find out more about mindful leadership and how it can help you draw on your inner reserves to achieve clarity of purpose and train your mind to meet any challenge you might face.
Finally, consider how innovative creative practices like Zentangle®can improve focus and clarity, create calm and open you to more creativity and innovation. Curious to learn more about the practice of Zentangle® and how it can help you and your team? Feel free to send me a message and I would be happy to share more about this simple practice of drawing repetitive patterns that anyone can learn, even if you think you can’t draw!