Workplace advice from Vanilla Ice.

Stop, Collaborate and Listen.

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Well said Vanilla Ice! It seems like pretty sage advice that most workplaces could certainly benefit from heeding. I think in reality, there may be some barriers to following this advice through. However, if people could just “stop” in the first instance then the collaboration and the listening might have half a chance.

Perhaps a nice big red stop sign in the middle of the workplace might encourage people to “stop” before they send the email; “stop” before they have that tricky conversation; “stop” before they make that big decision. Wouldn’t you want your team to take a couple of minutes to weigh things up before they weigh in? Do your team feel like “stopping” is an option?

We are not encouraged to stop, in fact we are encouraged to be busy or at least look busy at all times. One of the people I coach said that she would feel really uncomfortable being seen to “stop” at her desk. Surely one minute of contemplation should be rewarded and recognized as a means of achieving good outcomes.

When we don’t know how to “stop”, to consider and to contemplate, we run the risk of mistaking a challenge for a threat and when this happens there is every chance that we could end up with an “amygdala hijack,” as Daniel Goleman outlined in in his book Emotional Intelligence. We know in this process we are operating out of flight, fight or freeze – is this how you want your team to operate? This is the outcome when we are being overrun by stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. In addition, in this situation the higher cortex can’t be accessed and with it our capacity to make rational well thought out decisions.

All of a sudden perhaps “stopping” seems a little more attractive. You really then need to ask yourself how you could encourage your team to “stop;” what are the tools they need to make this an effective practice not only for them as individuals, but also for their team and the business as a whole. Because from my experience as a workplace mediator when the amygdala is running the show watch out! It does not just effect the individual involved, it can take out a whole team or even a whole business.

Mindfulness training is certainly one avenue that will not only help people to hit the reset button and keep this at bay, but will also give people the tools to notice when things are ramping up and to get to know their “tells.” Mine is a knot in my stomach and fogginess in my head. What are yours? Nobody chooses to “lose it” at work but often as it starts to unfold there really is no turning back. The only way to avoid this is to stop it ever starting.

Mindfulness practice at work provides a platform for people to re-centre. By introducing a sitting practice and tools to integrate into the workplace it gives people strategies to stop and reset. It also provides the skills around paying attention or noticing how we are feeling in any particular situation.

We might then be able to notice a “tell” in a meeting and excuse ourselves to go to the “bathroom” to regroup; or we might stay and really ground our feet into the floor as a way of getting back into our body and not let the amygdala take over.

It might allow us the awareness to stop, take one big breath into our belly, and re-read that email before sending it; or perhaps take a mindful walk around the office and come back to our desk and read one more time before hitting send.

We might choose to journal for five minutes before making a big decision, to revise what our position is and make sure we are on track and have considered all the options.

Perhaps people can have a regular short practice available to start the day so that at least they can begin the work day feeling settled and in a position to focus and manage their emotions.

These are all opportunities to “stop” that people can learn through mindfulness training in the workplace and they take five minutes or less. Yes they do take time initially but when these things go wrong, when the email has been sent or the argument has erupted, we all know that it takes a lot more time to fix than the couple of minutes it takes to complete these practices.

All of these are ways to “stop” and in doing that they almost walk hand in hand with collaborating and listening in a more effective way. It also provides a platform to operate in a more considered way both individually and whilst interacting with our colleagues.

So how will you Stop, Collaborate and Listen?!

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