Mindful Leadership — Being Calm in the Storm

Image Credit: Simon Migaj

By Arvin Patel, EVP and Chief Intellectual Property Officer, TiVo

Mindfulness is a passion of mine; I practice meditation in my personal life, and I use the principles of mindful leadership to help me be a better executive at work. The word “mindfulness” has become a popular buzzword in recent years, but what does it really mean? How can mindful leadership make your workplace more harmonious and productive? In general, mindful leadership is a way for leaders to manage their stress and improve their self-awareness and emotional wellness. It sets a positive tone and creates productive energy throughout the organization. Recent studies have found that when leaders manage their stress and reduce their anxiety, employees are more likely to be engaged and happy at work. Leaders set the tone for the entire organization; if leaders are constantly frazzled and stressed-out, they are less likely to be effective and inspire the best performance in the people around them.

There is no one “right way” to practice mindful leadership, but I have discovered a few key fundamentals that can help you stay centered and calm, reduce your stress, and improve your focus. Practicing these tips may also have a positive effect on the people around you at work.

Here are a few of my favorite practices for mindful leadership.

Create a Calmer, Healthier Work Environment

There are several strategies mindful leaders can use to create mindful work environments: reducing interruptions for your team, encouraging everyone to stretch and go for walks throughout the day, or even giving your people access to mindfulness apps so they can develop their own meditation skills. Along with looking at your own mindset and leadership style, pay attention to how your people are working and think creatively about what needs to change in the environment or workplace culture. Are you doing enough to encourage collaboration and support people’s emotional wellness? The new management style is for leaders to be less like “bosses” and more like supportive coaches. If you can develop more of a mindful, soft skills-oriented work culture, your work environment will reflect that same sense of calm.

Be Open to the Moment

Being mindful as a meditative practice is all about learning to live in the moment. Instead of regretting the past, anticipating the future, fretting about things left undone, or worrying about what might come to pass, mindfulness lets us breathe, relax, and accept what is happening now. In the same way, mindful leadership helps us to be level-headed and calm, even in the face of stressful events, disappointments, or disasters. Instead of freaking out about or overreacting to bad results or bad moments at work, mindful leaders are able to separate themselves from any one particular event and look at the situation dispassionately. We’ve all had bosses who, even in mundane situations, were constantly yelling, overreacting, panicking, or acting like the building was on fire. It’s better to be a mindful leader who can take bad news in stride. People generally make better decisions with a deep breath and a calm perspective.

Be Compassionate

Mindfulness helps us be more empathetic and feel more intimately connected to other living beings — especially to the other living beings that we work with! Compassion is an underrated skill of mindful leaders. Research shows that simple kindness from leaders at work can help people feel happier, more appreciated, more connected, and more creative. Showing your people that you care about them, that you are genuinely trying to connect with them, and that you support them in their growth will help build trust among your team, improve productivity, and increase retention of top talent.

Be Curious

Mindfulness is not just about reducing anxiety and managing stress; it’s about being an eager learner and unlocking a greater sense of wonder about everyday life. Curiosity is an essential element of mindful leadership, because it helps you be more inquisitive, more creative, eager to push limits and innovate, and more sociable and communicative. People like to work with leaders who are genuinely interested in what they’re up to, who are not locked up inside their own heads all the time. As you’re making the rounds and talking with your team throughout the day, having an attitude of curiosity will help you to connect and build better relationships with people. The most mindful leaders don’t claim to know everything; they are humble about the vastness of the world beyond their expertise, and they’re always eager to learn more. Staying calm and centered with mindfulness can help you find the mental energy to be more curious and keep learning, more than ever.

Cultivate Resilience

Disappointments and failures are part of life, and this is especially true for our lives at work. Mindfulness is not a “superpower” that makes you invincible to destruction; but it can help you bounce back from failure, and overcome difficulties. Mindfulness helps leaders maintain perspective. It helps them take a step back and focus on the big picture. It helps them maintain a well-informed sense of optimism in the face of challenges. The same sort of meditative calm that can come from a personal mindfulness practice — accepting what is happening in the moment, being patient, evaluating options with a clear mind — can also help you chart a better course for a team or an organization.

Mindfulness is not a magic solution and it doesn’t happen overnight. But I’ve found that through implementing a few simple but important choices regarding the way that I approach everyday life problems, trying harder to exercise discipline over my emotions and mindset, and making an extra effort to connect with people using compassion and curiosity, I can bring the best aspects of mindfulness to my leadership at work. I hope the same will be true for you!

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