Mindful Leadership – Being Calm in the Storm
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. “Mindfulness” has become a popular buzzword in recent years, but what does it really mean? How can mindful leadership help 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, in a way that sets a mindful tone and creates positive 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 leaders who inspire the best performance of the people around them.
There is no one “right way” to practice mindful leadership, but I have discovered a few key fundamentals of mindful leadership that can help you stay centered and calm, reduce your stress and improve your focus…and inculcate these same values in 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 for mindful leaders to create mindful work environments – such as by 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 your work environment or workplace culture. Are you doing enough to encourage collaboration and support people’s emotional wellness? The new wave of the future is for managers 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 within the moment. Instead of regretting the past, anticipating the future, or fretting about things left undone or worrying about what might come to pass, mindfulness lets us breathe, relax, and accept what is already happening right 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 or overreacting to bad results or a bad moment at work, mindful leaders are able to separate themselves from a particular event, and look at the situation dispassionately. We’ve all had those 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. You can often make better decisions with a deep breath and a calm perspective.
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 and that you are genuinely trying to connect with them and support them in their growth will help to build trust among your team, improve productivity, and increase retention of top talent.
Mindfulness is not just about reducing anxiety and managing stress; it’s about being an eager learner and unlocking a greater sense of wonder for everyday life. Curiosity is an essential element of mindful leadership, because it helps you be more inquisitive, more creative, more eager to push the limits and innovate, and more sociable and communicative. People like to work for 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 connect and build better relationships with people. The most mindful leaders don’t claim to know everything; they are humble about all the vastness of the world that is beyond their expertise – and they’re 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.
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 to 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 by making a few simple choices in the way I approach problems in everyday life, by trying harder to exercise discipline over my own emotions and mindsets, and by making extra effort to connect with people with 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!