Mindfulness is more than being present, awake, and aware. It’s also an ethical stance and generosity to the world around you.
Mindfulness will have a positive impact on your peace of mind, your impact on the world around you, and your performance as a leader.
I will offer a personal / family example of mindfulness and then show how it applies to leadership.
I hate when I am really busy working around the house and one of my kids is underfoot. It seems like wherever I turn, there they are, blocking my path, magically in my way. The more rushed I feel, the more aggravating the situation is—and the more tempted I am to be grumpy and angry about it.
More than once, I am sad to say, I have scolded “Get out of my way!” in an impatient voice. I’ve seen parents go further and add an insult: “Get out of my way, you idiot!” and then add for good measure: “What is wrong with you?”
Think about the impact of this behavior on a child, e.g., what does it teach a child about leadership, teamwork, and stress management? Does it motivate and build confidence or hurt and demoralize? Does it build the relationship or tear it down?
This behavior also has a negative impact on the parent, e.g., it elevates tension and stress. It fosters suspicion or undermines trust. And it doesn’t contribute to any kind of learning & growth, i.e., a parent who is lashing out is not honing their emotional and social intelligence practices.
Here is another kind of response. You might say instead: “This is unbelievable. We are thinking exactly alike. Everywhere I turn, you turn as well. Wow, we are on the same path today; we are completely in tune.”
First, this response will be just as effective at helping you steer the child out of your path—resetting the “traffic pattern,” as it were.
Far more importantly, you have turned a moment of potential anger and destructiveness into a moment of bonding, encouragement, and confidence building. You are setting a much better example for future behavior and character. You are reducing stress instead of adding to it. You are swapping selfish anger for generosity and compassion. —And still getting what you want.
It is important to note that this second approach is not just a kind of “polite lying” to keep the peace. There is truth in this interpretation—and probably more truth than assuming your child wants to be in your way and ruin your day on purpose. Even if your child is trying to be in your way to get attention, this second approach gives you a chance to offer your child a kind of positive attention—rather than an attack and character assassination.
Mindfulness is more than an intense focus on the present. It is also a thoughtful awareness about your impact on the future.
OK, how does this apply to leadership?
Your actions have a ripple effect on the world around you.
How you treat your employees has a direct impact on how they treat you, how they treat each other, and how they treat themselves. Business examples (formulated in the positive):
- If you treat your employees well, they will be more likely to treat you well.
- If you have their backs, they are more likely to be loyal and have your back.
- If you treat them with trust and respect, they are more likely to show you the same courtesy.
- If you try to help your employees succeed, they will be more inclined to help you succeed.
- If you make your employees part of the solution (see here), they will work harder to add value to your team and organization.
- If you use good process when you engage and collaborate with your team (see here), they are more likely to do the same with their colleagues when you are not around.
This is not rocket science. And it might sound all-too-obvious. But the impact is real.
Research shows that employee morale (how employees feel about their supervisor and their company) has a substantial impact on motivation, effort, productivity, work quality, attendance and retention. We all know how expensive employee turnover is (see here). All of these things in turn have an enormous impact on costs, customer service, your brand, and your ability to compete—for customers, capital, and talent.
One last point: there is literally a world of difference between faking and being.
You can read a bunch of business books and imitate the caring leader in order to reap the benefits. This is a selfish and manipulative approach. You can get some results from manipulation and faking, but not as much, and the collateral damage is much, much higher.
Faking is not nearly as powerful as being. You will get better and more consistent results if you are trusting and respectful; if you are trustworthy and integrous; if you actually do care about the success of your employees…
And in addition to getting better results, you will also be happier and less stressed. Your employees will be more satisfied and less stressed. You will leave a stronger legacy of positive/functional behavior in your wake. And you will create a culture in which people want to do great work. A great place to work, a mindful corporate culture, helps you attract and retain good people.
Don’t fake leadership. Be a good leader.
If you are interested, I wrote a series of blogs on authentic organizational culture (starts here).
Advanture helps organizations align culture with strategy, bring core values to life, and take leadership practices up to the next level for enhanced business performance. Performance by design!
Copyright © 2014 Advanture Consulting, all rights reserved.Joel Shapiro, Ph.D. Advanture Consulting Building talent to achieve your vision! Tel: (866) 860-4880 Email: Contact@AdvantureConsulting.com Web: www.AdvantureConsulting.com Blog: http://AdvantureConsulting.com/blog/