Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Developing Mindful Leadership

Organisations like Google, Sony, Goldman Sachs, Aetna, Volkswagen Audi, IF Insurance, and AXA Asia are using mindfulness training for workplace attentional skills and authentic leadership development.

It's not about employee stress management or health and fitness. Mindfulness training is proving to be an essential way to improve productivity, creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Research into the effects of mindfulness at work shows that the drivers of real productivity go beyond faster task performance and better information technology. It’s about having a calmer, more open and undistracted mind, greater self-awareness, and an enhanced capacity for self-transformation.

Focus, clarity, creativity, compassion, and courage are also the qualities that give leaders the resilience to cope with the many challenges they face and the resolve to sustain long-term success. The real point of leverage is the ability to think clearly and focus on the most important opportunities.

In his new book Focus, Daniel Goleman supports the importance of mindfulness in focusing the mind’s cognitive abilities, linking them to qualities of the heart like compassion and courage. Cultivating this type of focus requires establishing regular practices that allow your mind to relax and be fully present in the "here and now", moment-to-moment awareness. The opposite is mindlessness, which can be defined as neither paying attention to, nor having awareness of, the activities you are engaged in, or of the internal states and processes (e.g., emotions) you are experiencing.

The global consumer goods giant, Carlsberg and the largest Scandinavian insurance company, If Insurance - have collaborated with Professor Jochen Reb from Cambridge University Business School to cast light on the impact of a program called Corporate Based Mindfulness Training. The program has been developed over the last 6 years by the international training organisation The Potential Project.

The vision of The Potential Project is to facilitate the development of a new way of working, one in which individuals and organisations develop high performance cultures by harnessing the potential of the human mind. Download the report here.

Last year I conducted the first Australian CBMT (Corporate Based Mindfulness Training) for 45 Mental Healthcare managers at SESLHD (South East Sydney Local Health District). They completed a 4-month program of 11 one-hour modules and daily in-house training of 10 minutes a day. The results showed statistically significant improvements in focus, awareness, and work-life balance. Download the report here.

And this year I'm delivering CBMT programs for Landor Associates, an Asia Pacific brand marketing firm, and The NSW Health Education and Training Institute. Which all goes to show that mindfulness is increasingly being valued as an important workplace skill and not just a means of reducing stress.

In these times of shifting market platforms, political whim, and budgetary restrictions leading change in organisations demands much more than strategy and direction. It demands mindful leaders who know how to foster generosity, ethical discipline, patience, effort, and mindful focus in themselves and those they lead. Mckinsey & Co had it right in a recent article when they said "change leader, change thyself".

Are you a mindful leader?