How to Be a Mindful Business Leader

mindful business

The recent movie The Internship explores the eccentric, innovative, utopia-esque work environment of Google headquarters. Most of us have heard tales of Google’s carefully crafted “adult playground,” where clever minds are nurtured with a unique mix of work and play. The stimulating and self-contained “community” created by Google captures our imaginations with the image of an ideal workplace. And with the ideas that arise on site, we can easily see why.

Where we work has a huge impact on our personal well-being and on our value to the company that employs us. One of the things I enjoyed most about going to the fourth annual Wisdom 2.0, a conference bringing together CEOs and mindfulness experts, was the powerful sense that people care. Too often in today’s world, people use their power destructively. At Wisdom 2.0, however, business and spiritual leaders from around the globe collaborated to talk about the intersection between explosive technologies and individual well-being. Their mission was “to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.”

I was struck that a group of powerful and driven figures from our society were there to learn how they can have an influence, how they can use their power to do good. This spirit of community would benefit any business hoping to survive today’s  tough economy. Mindfulness is a practice that can help people feel more integrated, both personally and interpersonally. By mindfully generating a sense of camaraderie and connectedness, employers not only ensure the well-being of their employees but of the business as well. At the 2013 “Health Matters” conference, Bill Clinton commented on this observation, stating, “If you look at what’s working where the places that are growing economically in America, places that are doing best around the world, you have these creative networks of cooperation.”

People’s brains are wired to connect. Although some creativity is achieved in periods of isolation, it is wise for managers to create a socially smart work environment. They can do so by making an investment in their employees. This means creating a team environment, as individuals are much more motivated when they are a part of a team. They tend to feel a more personal investment in the success of the company. As a group, they even express a heightened level of intelligence.

In his aforementioned speech, Clinton referred to a study showing that “if you put a group of people with average IQs together and asked them to work on a problem for a year, and you give the same problem to a genius, the group of average intelligence with great numbers working together will work better than one genius acting alone.” Collective intelligence is a condition in which a group of people that works together demonstrates a higher level of intelligence than any one person among them. One MIT study revealed “such intelligence extends beyond the cognitive abilities of the groups’ individual members.” Researchers noted that the group’s  collective intelligence depended a lot on how well the group worked together.

A separate Union College study  on “collective intelligence” showed three important traits of teams that displayed high intelligence. They were:”the ability of group members to read and respond to social cues,” “proportion of  women in the group (women tend to do better on social perception tests),” and “evenly distributed conversational turn-taking, rather than dominance by a few members.” Collective intelligence and social skills, therefore, have a clear value in the workplace.

Further studies show that emotional intelligence is a better predictor of success than a person’s IQ. Emotional intelligence is a social skill. It describes a person’s ability to read and convey emotions. The more coworkers are encouraged to collaborate and form social connections, the more successful the company will be. Connecting with others leads to a smoother work flow. Many researchers believe people are more wired to cooperate than compete.

While a spirit of healthy competition can have a beneficial impact on one’s productivity, unfortunately, society tends to be too focus too much on competition. The truth is, connection and cooperation can be equally important. These qualities enhance teamwork and result in a heightened performance from the entire work force. Even though, as a manager, you are well-advised to encourage a team environment, you should also have regard for your team as individuals. Rather than viewing your employees as cogs in a machine, you are better off looking at what each person brings to the table and how you can boost the quality of each person’s work life.

When someone’s performance suffers, you can ask why he or she isn’t working as well. What is getting in the way of him being productive? Does she feel like a part of a team? How can I offer the support this person requires to get back on course? By uncovering what works, you can create a sustainable productivity level, while assuring the person’s well-being.

The psychological state of its team can strongly influence a company’s level of productivity. Depression is the leading cause of reduced work productivity in America. Employers lose about $44 billion per year on time lost with employees who struggle with depression. Too often, our work lives leave us feeling like we are in our own bubbles. We may forget to consider the  people around us and how they are feeling. It’s crucial for all of us to start thinking about how we can improve or enhance the lives of the individuals who work with us or for us.

Those of us who are managers can become more mindful in our decision-making, practices and policies. We must think about our values are and consciously determine to live by them, leading by example. If each of us were to do this, we’d soon find that our behavior and outlook is contagious. We will improves our communication and relate to one another on a more meaningful and personal level. We will create an integrated work environment that is beneficial to business, and moreover, the lives of the individuals who surround us on a daily basis.

About the Author

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. Dr. Lisa Firestone is the Director of Research and Education at The Glendon Association. An accomplished and much requested lecturer, Dr. Firestone speaks at national and international conferences in the areas of couple relations, parenting, and suicide and violence prevention. Dr. Firestone has published numerous professional articles, and most recently was the co-author of Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships (APA Books, 2006), Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice (New Harbinger, 2002), Creating a Life of Meaning and Compassion: The Wisdom of Psychotherapy (APA Books, 2003) and The Self Under Siege (Routledge, 2012). Follow Dr. Firestone on Twitter or Google.

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One Comment

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Great article! I’d like to recommend it to everyone who are or are about to be a leader.
Effective leading is really beneficial. I know that according to my own experience which is full of fails and wins.

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