The word mindful–or mindfulness –has exploded in recent years, for many reasons and most importantly for many benefits – even though the concepts and practice has been around for ages. That seems to be the trend with many industry crazes, a concept that has been around for some time, which when applied in the right way can be incredibly valuable, arises, gains popularity, and spreads like wildfire. Opportunities like this often arise in the world marketplace, and before you know it, the core message of what made that thing beneficial in the first place soon becomes lost in all the noise. As with many “buzzwords” before it, such as customer experience, mindfulness has also morphed into all sorts of implementations beyond its initial intention, which of course has brought around some potential pitfalls, if, mindfulness is not done ‘mindfully’.
However, if we sift through the noise, we can still take the value of those core concepts, concepts that take mindfulness and see it as being aware and conscious of one’s environment, as well as their thoughts, and feelings. Once we truly discover these core concepts and translate them into the workplace, it can prove incredibly powerful, providing real tangible benefits to both the individual and organization. For example, the act of being present in the moment to allow ourselves to focus on what we are currently experiencing or doing without letting distractions get in the way can have a tremendous boost on our productivity. Or, when we are experiencing a challenging discussion with a colleague, listening without judgement to respond purposefully and not react in haste, or irrationally. Or, taking the moment to eat ‘mindfully’, as in not multitasking with emails or work and allowing yourself to be in the moment of enjoying the taste of the food – even if that moment is just a quick 10 minute lunch.
Last year we spent a lot of time researching what it takes to create an “energizing” organizational culture. One in which all levels – leadership, managers, and individual employees – are all at a high level of performance, and engagement. Our goal was to identify the behaviors and mind-sets people can develop to increase their resilience, happiness, attention, and creativity, as well as equip them with the tools they need to be able to respond to all of life’s challenges in the best way.
We have been working with several individuals from a variety of organizations over the last couple of weeks to identify their disempowering barriers and their openings for growth. Looking at some of the insights we have gathered – the top three barriers, common to those with low, medium, and high, levels of energizing behaviors – highlighted the need for both individual and organizational efforts to shift into us into a more positively energizing state.
1: Being inspired by what your organizations does.
The first area that needed development across the board was the ability to feel genuinely inspired by what one’s organization does. This can be difficult as we are faced with large gestures of inspiring acts everyday in our ever-connected world, and this can leave the average person feeling that their own accomplishments or work lacks in comparison. When looking at what others are doing all over the world, it can naturally leave many employees feeling as though their own jobs are doing little in comparison, especially since most employees do not see how what they do adds up to real impact.
The truth is, more often than not, we all do something that makes an impact. We may just have to look deeper. Usually the work we do is benefiting someone’s life in some way, such as working on a product that saves someone time that they can better spend elsewhere such as with their loved ones, or connecting people from far reaches of the globe. Generally, we all work on something that is made for the purpose of helping others in some way, or else no one would desire the product, we just have to keep that in mind.
Organizations can help by:
Helping employees understand the line of sight from what they specifically do, to the impactful outcomes in the lives of others – whether it is internally helping people be happier, more productive, less stressed, or helping your customers do something in a better way – saving them time, limiting worry, or making something easier.
Sharing stories – across all departments and levels. There is a contagious impact of company pride when those you work with or for are creating value in the lives of others.
Understanding our purpose, and the impact of the work we do beyond the actual work, can help drive higher levels of commitment, genuine passion, and authentic engagement.
2: Having clear boundaries
From our data it became clear that many people tend to honor their commitments to friends and loved ones. They tend to put a priority on these commitments and do whatever they can to protect them once they are scheduled or set. However, there are many other types of boundaries that lead to a more energized life that people found challenging to protect.
One area nearly half of all the people struggled with was protecting time they had planned for focused work. We all have meetings and fires that arise, and, many of us have work efforts that requires some set aside thought or focus. However, we found that when most schedule time for this type of work, they end up giving into that impromptu meeting rather than simply suggesting another time. Of course, if the meeting is actually time sensitive, that’s fine, but not placing importance on your scheduled focus time and knowing when to shift priorities effectively has a knock on effect. For example, you’ll end up having to make up for it later, which then can leave you feeling like you didn’t get everything done, which leads to stress and feeling overwhelmed.
The other boundary that the majority struggled with was protecting daily wellness activities, especially taking the time to eat during their busy day – which can have many impacts on our wellbeing.
Organizations can help by:
Supporting the behavior of taking the time to eat and for breaks in several ways: having the right designed space for employees to do so, and making sure to manage employees based on achieving impactful outcomes for them and the business, instead of fostering a culture of ‘who looks like the busiest bee’ where things like eating at desks is perceived as a ‘high performer,’ because they must be ‘so busy’.
Tackling the big issue of meeting-itis by fostering a culture where meetings are not for the sake of meeting, people are invited because they need to be there and provide value, rather than because they may feel left out…I say no more.
3: Getting adequate rest
While most seemed to have some level of consistency to when they got rest, many struggled with the quality of that rest. One key limiter to the quality of rest was the behavior of looking at screens before bed, which was very high. There are several reasons this can hinder one’s energy levels. For example, looking at your phone and seeing that email come in, the one that you cannot do anything about that late at night, so it’s just on-your-mind throughout the night…and you end up just laying in darkness stressing about it. Or, using your phone for your alarm, and when you go to switch it off you see those flashing notifications – which you can’t help but look at…and again, these will now be on your mind until dealt with – taking away from your morning coffee, time with family, or just simple few minutes of clear mind.
When talking to organizations, some ways we have found culture to play a role is by:
Creating a workplace in which people are mindful of when they send emails to others given the time zone.
Educating and creating awareness about the importance of high quality rest and the behaviors that employees can engage to increase their quality of rest.
While changing organizational culture takes time, there are things you can start doing purposefully today:
Understand where your own personal barriers are and what is hindering you the most.
Identify your own inspiration – if you are struggling to find inspiration from what you do for your job, start by finding it elsewhere – it may be outside of work, from the everyday activities you do, or it may well be experiencing the wonder of nature.
Understand your own boundaries, their impact, and start implementing behaviors that respect them, so that others learn to respect them too.
Make a commitment to yourself, to make space in your mind and time in your schedule for self care – one step at a time. It may be a daily walk, or going to bed by a certain time, whatever it is, just take the first step to start.
There is no doubt that behavioral change is hard and takes time…once you decide what you are going to do, take a few moments to reflect and take personal accountability for your actions…and, don’t beat yourself up if you have a minor slip up…it happens when we engage new behaviors and work to make them the norm!