In a busy work environment, it’s easy to get sucked into a culture of stress and intensity. Because offices emphasize production and forward momentum, it can be difficult to guarantee proper time for reflection and self-care. But ignoring your personal wellbeing can be dangerous.
One way to improve your personal mental health and improve your effectiveness as a leader is to employ mindfulness. This popular trend of embracing self-awareness and reflection deserves the hype. Virginia Hill, Manager at the Partnership for Public Service, explained why mindful leadership is the best way to master your leadership style.
Speaking at a recent NextGen online training, “Mindful Leadership: How Emotionally Intelligent Are You at Work?,” Hill defined mindfulness as, “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.” At the most basic level, this means reflecting on what is going on in your mind. This practice can manifest itself in a number of ways, including a focus on body language or reflection on the source of both positive and negative emotional responses.
According to Hill, part of the value of mindfulness is its benefits for our mind-body connection. Our culture has a tendency to value what goes on in our heads, often above all else, but that does not mean it is healthy to allow our heads to run the show. “The fact that we can notice our thoughts means we are not our thoughts,” Hill said. This recognition is an important one, especially if you find yourself falling victim to stress at work. By using mindfulness to recognize that your feelings are temporary, workers can regain control.
By practicing mindfulness, you can better yourself at home and at work. Most importantly, the introduction of emotional calm and perspective into your environment develops your EQ,, or your emotional intelligence. Leadership is made up of 80 percent EQ, 10 percent IQ and 10 percent subject matter expertise, Hill explained. As a result, she recommends “leading from the balcony.” By extricating yourself from the situation, taking a higher viewpoint, and using caution to respond rather than react, supervisors can tap into their emotional intelligence to lead effectively.
Although mindfulness may sound like a lot of work, there are a number of easy and straightforward ways that leaders can put it to use. For example, a performance meditation is an easy reflection method that you can even use at work. Hill offered these quick instructions to meditate on a successful past action:
- Close your eyes, or soften your gaze. You can do this exercise at your desk, even if you don’t have an office.
- Ignore any distractions. Don’t worry about people passing by, and just focus on your breathing and being present.
- Think about a time when you were at your best. Go back to that time, and reflect on the moment. What was it like? How did it feel? What was going on in your body and in your mind? What was going on in the environment around you?
- Consider how you can carry that feeling into other aspects of your career and life and channel that moment into the present. Whenever you’re ready, you can open your eyes or shift your gaze.
There are many different ways to incorporate mindfulness into the workplace. For beginners, Hill explained that you can easily start small. These steps include practicing deep breathing in the white space of the day, reading a book on mindfulness, or trying a new exercise such as yoga or tai chi. Mindfulness is not just for the workplace. To introduce similar techniques at home, Hill recommended creating a space in your home for reflection and regularly writing in a journal.
Most importantly, incorporating mindfulness is a constant work in progress. Each new skill and every repetition helps improve your leadership style. “Every time we try or learn something, it’s a brick,” said Hill, “and every time we practice, we add mortar.” The process is the best way to build your approach as a supervisor.
Have you implemented mindfulness techniques in your career? Share your stories in the comments below! For more details on how to introduce mindful leadership into your office, check out the entire webinar. Hill's favorite additional resources include:
- The Mindful Leader by Michael Carroll
- 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer
- The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
- Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhatt Hanh
- 25 Lessons in Mindfulness by Rezvan Ameli (NIH!)
- 10% Happier by Dan Harris
- Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
Be sure to sign up for this year’s NextGen Training Summit so you don’t miss out on more tools to help you do your job better.