I attended an excellent discussion at Cass Business School last year on the potential value to business of mindfulness. For the uninitiated this is a practice developed from Buddhism that is designed to help people “take a step back” and think about the actions they are taking in a more thoughtful and holistic perspective, not a narrow event-driven one.
This is achieved through simple techniques. In its most basic form, this may be closing your eyes and breathing slowly for one minute as an example – before considering your current position. It is an extension of the principle of counting to 10 before responding to a remark or email that annoys you. There is clear evidence that these techniques do produce physiological changes such as reduced blood pressure, heart rate and overall stress. As a result, they are used within the healthcare field to help individuals suffering from a variety of conditions. The more difficult question is whether mindfulness makes a difference in running organisations.
The answer is probably – they certainly help employees deal with pressure and stress better, but that’s rather a waste of time and effort if better leadership removed the initial pressure in the first place. For leaders, if it helps them to come up with more effective decisions, bearing in mind the big picture and the impact on others as well as themselves, then it will make a big difference, especially at senior levels.
There is a much bigger question about how it will systematically help the organisation. Yes, you can run everyone through mindfulness training but if this isn’t integrated with improvements in leadership capability to minimise the impact of pressure and stress on employees that drive the need for mindfulness, I can’t see it being more than a “sticking plaster” to address the unnecessary damage caused by poor leaders. However, more work needs to be done to confirm evidence of benefit to enable an effective business case to be presented, but the potential seems to be there given the physiological research and other studies.
I am looking forward to learning more and bringing mindfulness to a wider business audience. Rather than a magical silver bullet for organisations, mindfulness may turn out to be another useful tool in the armoury of the effective leader and the forward thinking organisation to maximise the chances of delivering success.
To learn more about mindfulness, watch this amazing interview below