I’d like to think that everyone understands the importance of leadership. And good leadership benefits organizations. But there’s not one standardized type of leadership. It takes on many forms and, as individuals, we might be attracted to certain types and models more than others. Personally, I think that’s okay. The important piece is that individuals find a way to practice leadership that feels authentic to them. Because if they embrace it, they will do it. And that’s what benefits the business.
I’m really looking forward to attending this year’s WorkHuman Conference because one of the speakers, Pandit Dasa, a mindfulness expert and former monk, is speaking on mindful leadership. Pandit has spoken in several Fortune 500 companies and is the founder of Conscious Living, a consultancy focused on bringing mindfulness and wellness to the workplace. He’s also the author of the book, “Urban Monk”.
Regular readers of this blog know I’ve become fascinated with mindfulness and have written a few pieces about the practice. Pandit was generous to share his time with me and provide a sneak peek into mindful leadership.
Pandit, how do you define “mindful leadership”?
[Dasa] Many people today operate within a leadership capacity, not just the C-Suite. Everything a person does influences others. Those who are specifically in leadership roles need to understand if and when their actions are the result of their ego and personal needs. Mindful leaders are trained in managing their egos and not letting them get in the way of the company’s success.
When it comes to leadership, I take my inspiration from people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi. They were individuals who led by example and lived by the saying, “Be the change you want to see.” Leadership is about being willing to set the example.
Now, when we think of mindfulness, it’s about being aware and in the moment. Bring those two concepts together. Mindful leadership is about being aware of your motivation and the reasons you choose to lead. It’s about asking yourself: Why am I choosing to be a leader? Am I serving my needs or the needs of others? How am I treating others as I go about meeting the goals of the organization?
I saw in the program description for your WorkHuman session that you plan to discuss “putting people over project”. I think maintaining this balance is a challenge that leaders face daily – to the point where it creates stress and burnout.[Dasa] When leaders are faced with multiple demands, here are three things they can do to alleviate personal stress and burnout.
Practice mindfulness/meditation. It’s amazing how taking a few moments to decompress and focus can have so much impact on our state of mind and energy. Make time for this daily. While research says that a 15-20 minute is an ideal session that could be challenging for someone who is new to meditation. I’d suggest starting with 5 minutes/daily for 30 days. Everyone has 5 minutes a day. Use the time to focus on clearing your mind, taking deep breaths, feeling grateful for the positive things happening in your life, and appreciating your colleague’s contributions. The time will fly by. After a month, just add a minute. Work up to a time that’s comfortable for you.
Focus on relationships. According to The American Institute of Stress, forty-six percent (46%) of our stress is related to workload, and 28 percent is people issues. When we get stressed, the most helpful thing is having positive relationships around us. Whether it’s in your personal or professional life, if you have a difficult relationship, try to resolve any conflict and tensions. Ignoring it isn’t going to help. Resolving conflicts generally means we need to be proactive because conflicts won’t resolve themselves. We will need to take a humble approach by being ready to acknowledge our contribution to the conflict.
Get a good night’s sleep. With advances in technology, we can find ourselves constantly planning. Our devices keep us connected, so we’re always thinking about the next thing we need to do, and frankly, we’re letting it interrupt our rest. Take time to truly disconnect. Put away the phone, so you’re not tempted to check your emails in the middle of the night. The work will still be there in the morning. You’ll be so much fresher in the morning and ready to deal with whatever is waiting for you.
When it comes to work, how can mindful leaders hold people accountable and still meet their business goals?[Dasa] A mindful leader won’t simply blame others if the goals aren’t met. They will take an honest look at themselves and see if they did everything possible in their power to help their workforce succeed. Did they:
- Set clear expectations and communicate them effectively?
- Make sure expectations were reasonable and achievable?
- Understand the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the team before assigning tasks?
- Provide sufficient empowerment and support so the team can achieve their agreed upon goals?
- Monitor the situation and address any emergencies before they get out of control?
Mindful leaders don’t just hold others accountable, but they do the same with themselves.
Speaking of communication, I’ve been told that positive messages are easy to share and not-so-positive messages…well, are more difficult. What can mindful leaders do when they need to communicate the difficult message. For example, like when project needs aren’t met?[Dasa] It is important to regularly appreciate the contributions of your workforce. This creates a positive emotion balance in the relationship. When there has been a sufficient expression of appreciation, it becomes easier for the recipient to hear the not-so-positive messages.
The monks that I lived with for 15 years taught me that the ideal communication covers four criteria:
- It is truthful.
- It is beneficial.
- It doesn’t disturb the other’s mind.
- It is pleasing.
While it may not always be possible to meet all four criteria, we can try and be more thoughtful and compassionate in not only what we communicate, but also how we communicate. Ultimately, the goal of our communication should be to inspire the individual to do and give more. An uninspired worker is not going to be very productive.
If an organization encourages mindful leadership, how can they measure the results of their efforts?[Dasa] Mindful leadership is a transformation in the way we think and behave. It requires commitment, training, and work. Individuals need to evaluate their emotions and become more self-aware. Think of it like running a marathon. You don’t become a marathon runner overnight. It takes time to train. You take small steps every day. Then, once you get into your routine, it progresses quickly.
The organization will know that mindful leadership is working through greater retention. Because leaders are thinking of others. Individuals are happier at work. They’re being recognized for their efforts.
There’s a good read in Harvard Business Review titled, “Proof that Positive Work Cultures are More Productive”. I’d add happy to that title. When employees are happy, they’re productive. And when they’re productive, they will stay. People spend a lot of time at work. Positive interactions matter.
My thanks to Pandit for sharing his expertise with us. If you want to learn more about mindful leadership, check out this article on the Society for Human Management (SHRM) website about the business benefits of mindful leadership.
And consider joining us in Phoenix on May 30 – June 1 for WorkHuman 2017. Our friends at Globoforce have put together a fabulous line of speakers. Besides Pandit, the agenda includes Former First Lady Michelle Obama and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, star of the award-winning HBO series “Veep”. If you’d like to join us (and I hope you will), HR Bartender readers have been extended a discount. Just use the promo code WH17INF-MFA to receive the special rate of $995 (a savings of $500).