Enthusiasm for the value and benefits of this subjective ‘soft-art’ continues to bubble. Back in 2015, the Harvard Business Review boldly stated, “Mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have” for executives. It’s a “must-have”, and that notion still stands.
Global greats such as Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn), Bill Ford (Ford Motor), Marc Benioff (Sales Force), the late Steve Jobs (Apple), and Arianna Huffington (Huff Post, Thrive Global) all profess to skilling-up on mindfulness to enhance their productivity and performance.
Let’s define it: The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Employees educated in this skill learn to sharpen their levels of self-awareness in an effort to: enhance their emotional intelligence, build stronger relationships, better manage their stress, empathise more, judge less, focus intently, listen well, and communicate more clearly.
A ‘mindful’ workplace thrives as a culture, which has been strategically created through planning, preparation, training, and especially by role modelling by its executives.
Within this biosphere, project work flows with less mental fatigue and emotional resistance, generating increased productivity in the following three ways:
Less ‘aggressive’ conflict
Isn’t conflict just conflict? Can it be ‘less aggressive’ and isn’t conflict required to drive decision-making and innovation? Yes indeed, but there are two types: One is emotionally disruptive, when it is about being right, in control, one-sided or winner takes all. In this case, productive outcomes are sacrificed for time focused on defensiveness and a lack of openness, flexibility and trust. Decisions tend to be suspended for longer periods of time in a cloud of disagreement, resentment and frustration.
Instead, a mindful workplace places emphasis on engaging in conflict that we might define as healthy robust discussion or debate- the hallmark of which is a focus on staying objective, being solution-focused, and having sensitivity to and respect for others’ opinions. Working with a mindset of win-win keeps colleagues positive, and outcome-driven, allowing a group to reach creative decisions with more speed, emotional wellbeing and efficiency.
Work cultures have the potential to be fertile ground for the darker side of our nature, sometimes breeding unhealthy competition levels, secrecy, selfishness and disempowerment. Under these circumstances personal and professional confidence stands on shaky ground and our negative, self-doubting inner voice has a field day.
What helps our self-assurance lift, is being surrounded instead by self-aware colleagues- ones trained to engage in inclusive, supportive, enabling behaviours. In this environment of increased emotional safety, team members have the opportunity to feel professionally validated, appreciated, and valued. This stimulates the motivation to excel and maximises their potential to generate desired business outcomes.
Point #1, plus point #2 equals Point #3- Less of the distracting sort of stress. Reduced anxiety levels leave an open door for positivity, excitement, and a healthy sense of urgency- essentially the ‘good’ stress that drives industriousness and innovation.
Mindfulness as a ‘practice’ has far reaching benefits to our general sense of wellbeing in the world, and enhanced productivity at work is just one of many.