Rapid change. Unpredictability. Turbulence. This is the world in which people and organizations find themselves in every day. Organizations are faced with a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). Developing people in this environment means more than just learning a specific set of skills.
How can people be more effective? What does it take to build high performance teams and create a positive, proactive work environment?
What are the main challenges facing Managers and Leaders?
The Center for Creative Leadership gathered data from 763 participants of leadership development programs from seven different places in the world in 2016 (China/Hong Kong, Egypt, India, Singapore, Spain, United Kingdom, and United States). Though they come from all parts of the world, these leaders consistently face the same six challenges:
- Developing Managerial Effectiveness
- Inspiring Others
- Developing Employees
- Leading a Team
- Guiding Change
- Managing Internal Stakeholders and Politics
Managers and Leaders need to build relationships, encourage, empower and guide their teams. They need to have clarity, clear communication and be able to effectively address emotional reactions to change. To achieve all this managers and leaders also need to develop self-awareness, awareness of others and to gain an understanding of which attitudes, mindsets and behaviors are most likely to help them and their teams flourish.
And this is where practicing Mindfulness can be of benefit. Mindfulness is not a solution for everything, even though it is sometimes portrait as such, but it can help with developing the necessary insights and skills needed to face common leadership challenges. Having facilitated mindfulness programs in different organizations I have consistently received similar feedback:
“The mindfulness practices are a key element in helping me build trust and better cooperation with other people, they help me to feel more comfortable with change and managing internal politics, mindfulness has helped me inspire others, engage my team and enhance effectiveness."
" I noticed that I get less caught up in emotional dramas, are able to move on and manage easier; I noticed enhanced performances and a more positive work climate”
The extensive research into mindfulness and people’s feedback in organizations from around the world paint a similar picture. Mindfulness has helped people reduce stress and enhance performance. It has been introduced into Health Care, Sports, the Army, Schools and Organizations. So to further understand the potential contribution of mindfulness towards addressing leadership challenges let’s look at mindfulness in more detail.
What is Mindfulness and what are some of the objectives?
Mindfulness is more then just a few practices. Mindfulness is an intention, an attitude a way of living, working, behaving. The foundations of mindfulness include:
- To observe on purpose what is happening in us and around us and gain more clarity on how to take appropriate action
- To become aware of how often we re-act and judge in autopilot mode, habitual, and how acting from more awareness can positively impact our decision- making and choices
- To embrace experiences rather then judging them, developing a more positive mindset when dealing with people and problems.
- To adopt an attitude of curiosity, a beginner’s mind enabling us to see different ways and solutions
- To practice patience and compassion, reducing agitation and frustration, enhancing the climate at work
- To develop trust in our own abilities and those of others, contributing to building confidence and empowerment
- To accept situations, people, your own thoughts or emotions as they are in the present moment and then to look for opportunities for growth rather then focusing on the negative or painful
- To let go when realizing that the mind will not shut down. This is one of the first signs of elevated stress and can sap our energy. Mindfulness practices help us change habits and conditions and reduce our stressors
Time to Reflect
How do you think mindfulness can help Managers and Leaders to better deal with the six challenges identified by the Center for Creative Leadership?
How do you think cultivating the foundations of mindfulness could be of benefit to you, your team or your own organization?
How would you like to start with increasing your own mindfulness?
Practicing the following exercise can be your first step:
Exercise: Bring awareness to difficult communications per over the period of one week, record what happened, what you wanted from the communication, what the other person wanted, and what actually transpired. Make notes and look for patterns. Does this exercise tell you anything about your own mental states and their consequences as you communicate with others? What could you do differently?
Christiane Pohl, ACC coaches and mentors senior Managers, Leaders and Business Owners on stretching their own capabilities and the capabilities of others. She offers customized Mindfulness Programs for Teams in Organizations and facilitates Mindfulness retreats.