Creativity. Intuition. Wisdom. Reflection. Thoughtful decision-making. We know how important these qualities are to our individual performance at work and to the success and vitality of our organizations. But in a fast-paced, always-on work environment, these same qualities are often under assault.
Managers aren’t immune to this. Keeping an eye on your team members’ various schedules, deliverables, personalities and potential conflicts—not to mention your own responsibilities—can quickly become overwhelming. This, in turn, can lead you to conclude that the best and only way to succeed and be productive is to work nonstop, charging ahead without slowing, looking back or even pausing for a breath. And that, in turn, makes you less able to lead effectively, support your colleagues and inspire them to do their best work.
The good news is that, as a manager, this vicious cycle presents you with one of the biggest opportunities to lead in a different way— a way that’s essential if you want your team and your company to thrive. That’s where meditation and mindfulness come in. If you’re picturing yourself sitting cross-legged in a temple and wearing some kind of tunic, stop right there. Part of the beauty of meditation is that it can be done by anyone, anywhere. All it takes is a few minutes of sitting alone with yourself. If you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate.
Even a few minutes a day can increase your performance and help you operate from a place of greater perspective, calm and clarity. The science-backed benefits of meditation and mindfulness—for example, being less distracted and less stressed—are key to your ability not only to excel at your job, but to help others excel at theirs.
Think about bosses you’ve admired. How did they manage time and demands? Did they take time to connect with themselves, or did they take a just-push-through approach and prioritize speed above strategy and thoughtfulness? How did this affect your performance and your definition of success?
Whatever the answer, their leadership style probably made an impression on you. It’s natural for direct reports to model themselves after their managers, or at least take careful note of their actions. So it’s especially important that you model behaviors that show others what you really value.
Here are a few ways you can bring more mindfulness to your team:
1. Ask your team members to share their methods for connecting with themselves.
In your next 1-on-1 meeting with a direct report, ask them tell you what brings them a sense of calm. It might be a midday walk, a few minutes of meditation or listening to music. Encourage them to make time each week for these activities and let them you they have your support. Inspire them to hold themselves accountable by putting it on their calendars and making it a regular commitment.
2. Arrange for a group meditation session
Not everyone will be immediately comfortable, and some might decline to participate. That’s ok. But one way to gently introduce employees to the benefits of mindfulness and meditation is to bring them together to practice it in a group. It doesn’t have to be formal—just ten quiet minutes in a conference room together will do. If you’re not sure how to lead breathing exercises or a small group meditation session, here’s a helpful primer.
3. Share your own mindfulness methods with the team
Telling your direct reports the specific steps you take to connect with yourself will not only let them know the practice is encouraged—it’ll also provide a specific blueprint they can follow. If you started out skeptical or even dismissive of meditation and mindfulness, be sure to include that, as well as how your attitude shifted over time.