Mindfulness is defined as “the intentional, accepting, and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts, and sensations occurring in the present moment.”
When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the immediate moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. Being mindful simply means being fully connected to the reality of what is, and accepting this reality even if we don’t like it.
When we’re mindful, we’re fully connected to ourselves and to other people, and this connection allows us to lead ourselves and others to shared certainty rather than individual confusion.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness delivers significant benefits in the workplace by helping leaders and employees bring their best selves to work.
Mindfulness improves our work performance and enjoyment because it improves our decision-making ability, the quality of our working relationships, and our effectiveness as leaders.
According to research by Ernst & Young, mindfulness also helps improve clarity of thought, creativity, productivity, workplace safety, and satisfaction. Additional benefits include:
20-30% reduction in workplace stress
50% reduction in absentee days
40% reduction in the cost of employee turnover
How Mindfulness Impacts Leadership
The essence of good leadership is knowing where to lead employees. The essence of knowing where to lead other people is knowing where to lead ourselves. We have to discover our full working potential before we can lead others to discover their full working potential, according to Dr. Stephen McKenzie, author of Mindfulness at Work.
Dr. McKenzie offers the following advice on how we can become better leaders by experiencing mindful connectedness with the people with which we work.
Six Keys to Mindful Leadership
We are not great leaders regardless of the employees we lead; we are great leaders because of them.
If we’re leading because we want to help employees get where they need to be to best express their professional abilities, then we will lead others and ourselves to a good place–professionally and psychologically.
Great leaders inspire and transform others by inspiring and transforming themselves. They recognize potential greatness in themselves and in others that might otherwise never have been discovered.
Create common goals
Being mindful more of the time helps us to be better leaders by uniting us in common goals and ways of achieving them, and frees us of our separate ideas about what needs to be done and how to do it.
Mindfulness gives us the courage to face reality and, therefore, see real opportunities–to lead ourselves and others too.
Listen to people
Being fully mindful means really listening to people who work for us, as well as people we work for, and not listening to what we think they’re saying. If we listen to colleagues as if hearing them for the first time, we create new ways of understanding and doing.
Be a conductor, not a controller
When we’re mindful we recognize when someone in our working orchestra is playing their own tune rather than playing in harmony with everyone else. Give teammates clear direction on their shared working goals, and the space to find their own best way to be a wonderful working part of a wonderful working whole.
Michelle M. Smith is vice president of business development at O.C. Tanner as well as a world-renowned speaker, writer, consultant, and trusted advisor to Fortune 500 companies and governments. She is president emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association and past president of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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