It seems like something you’d hear while meditating during yoga class: Mindfulness teaches us to be present and deliberate in choice and action. But mindfulness has made its way from the yoga mat to the office in some organizations, and the benefits have been significant and even scientifically proven. The shift to soft skills as part of leadership training should encourage mindfulness, so it’s worth understanding why keeping mindfulness on your mind could make all the difference.
Mind Over Matter
The term mindfulness can be ambiguous and mean different things for different people, but in general, it means slowing down, being deliberate, and taking the time to weigh options and avoid knee-jerk reactions or habitual actions. After all, how many leadership choices are made because “that’s how it’s always been done,” or because the leader harbors unconscious bias based on education, upbringing, and generation?
Teaching mindfulness trains leaders to take the time to make decisions carefully, based on what’s best for the organization. According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, “Mindfulness… it’s a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress. It can be integrated into one’s religious or spiritual life, or practiced as a form of secular mental training. When we take a seat, take a breath, and commit to being mindful, particularly when we gather with others who are doing the same, we have the potential to be changed.”
Forward-thinking companies like Google, Facebook, and Aetna, have qualified the importance of mindfulness and are already reaping the benefits of leaders who stop, think, and then act.
Benefits such as:
Improved decision-making skills.
Mindful leaders are better equipped to weigh the options and consciously choose what’s best for the individual, team, and organization as a whole. This also leads to more confident leadership.
Thinking outside the box is hard when you’re not even aware that the box exists. Mindfulness helps employees and leaders think beyond the easiest route and come up with ideas and strategies for the greater good, even if it’s not what is typically done.
Reduced unconscious bias.
Everyone has thoughts, opinions, and bias that are a product of upbringing, social norms, and history. That bias is actually a shortcut created by the brain for quick decision making. But mindfulness encourages leaders to understand why they feel a certain way, and to avoid making decisions based on personal bias.
Improved emotional intelligence.
Mindful leaders aren’t only aware of their own emotions, but the emotions of those around them. They perceive why a team member feels a certain way and can even predict reactions. This emotional intelligence creates leaders who are better equipped to better handle the interpersonal relationships and dynamics of the team so everyone feels supported and heard.
Like most soft skills, training leaders for mindfulness can be an elusive tactic. Still, it can be done with a combination of scenarios and modeled behavior. When leaders understand the benefits of more mindful behavior, they’ll be more likely to adopt it as their own, so scenarios can be a great way to prove the importance of mindfulness in a training session. Of course, management needs to model the behavior themselves, putting stock in the importance of slowing down, examining decisions, and using emotional intelligence to make the best choice possible as well.
Soft skills are what separate the great leaders from the mediocre managers, and mindfulness is a skill that can definitely be taught. Seeing the way mindful behavior can change the decision-making process at work makes the difference in helping leaders see the importance of conscious, deliberate actions to get rid of those that are biased, outdated, or habitual. What might have started during meditation on the mat could be the secret to better judgment in the board room.