According to Gallup, stress, worry, and sadness have been on the rise globally for the past decade. Not surprisingly, all reached record highs in 2020. Then in early 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 41.5% of U.S. adults exhibited symptoms of anxiety or depression. Fortunately, many companies are responding to this unfortunate trend by promoting mindfulness in the workplace. But what is mindfulness, and does it help alleviate these feelings of burnout?
Mindful.org defines mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Among those companies leading the effort to promote mindfulness at work is the Mindful Workplace Alliance (MWA), a group of leaders from companies such as LinkedIn, Google and Intel. While success looks different for each organization, there have been undeniable positive results. For example, while LinkedIn saw an increase in skilled applicants, Intel experienced increased employee well-being. According to Peter Bostelmann, Chief Mindfulness Officer at SAP, the company has seen a 200% ROI, with the training leading to a rise in employee engagement and leadership trust and a fall in absenteeism.
Mindfulness in the workplace has clear benefits. But to successfully implement these programs, you need leaders that are committed. In her new book, Mindfully Wise Leadership, Keren Tsuk, Ph.D., shares five essential qualities of a mindful leader.
A mindful leader is compassionate
The emotional connection between employees is critical to creating a sense of belonging and achieving a common goal. Interpersonal skills like empathy, compassion and self-acceptance provide us with the capacity to collaborate in dispersed and cross-organizational teams. One way to embrace compassion is to dedicate time to the onboarding process. Another is to create informal meetings between leaders and new employees. Finally, consider simple gestures, like taking new hires to lunch, to connect with them on a more personal level.
A mindful leader is flexible
Mindful leaders have a flexible mindset. They know how to stop, examine an issue, and pivot when necessary. Being present, flexible, and accepting new information without judgment enables innovative ideas to emerge. To put this in action, ask for feedback from employees regarding what is working and what isn’t working. Be open to feedback and see it as an opportunity to learn and thrive.
A mindful leader is present
Mindful leaders dare to be present. When we’re present and embrace discomfort, we allow creative solutions to materialize. By decreasing the friction that emotions, personalities, and conflicts can cause, presence will enable us to create a better alignment between goals and the ability of employees to achieve those goals. Be proactive and take matters into your hands. If something bothers you and doesn’t feel right, act on it. Dare to be vulnerable and acknowledge that you can’t know everything. When you are present and dare not to know the answer, this will open the door for others to be vulnerable in the same way.
A mindful leader is authentic
A mindful leader strives to communicate authentically and directly with people. Create an environment where employees can interact, listen and develop through one another. This approach will allow the organization to remain dynamic and respond to changing demands. Create transparent communication with your employees, even in challenging times. Transparent communication creates clarity for employees and contains uncomfortable feelings.
A mindful leader is intuitive
Connecting to our intuition means being mindful of our gut feelings and emotions. While solving problems is vital in the business world, most people only use a rational mind. We must also trust in our intuition and ourselves before overcoming significant obstacles. A strong intuition allows us to be creative and makes us more self-aware. So, practice using your intuition or listen to it a bit more. As Tsuk points out, “We must first develop a deep trust within ourselves—including the courage to follow our intuition even when it may go against the tide of what others may approve of—before true and full success can consistently take root and blossom.”
Mindfulness is more than a program. It’s a movement that is gaining momentum. It’s time for managers to embrace it, lead by example, and inspire others to do the same.