Top Performers: All Roads Lead to Mindfulness

Re-evaluating the way you go about your tasks can lead to less stress on the job

black man in suit thinkingBuried in work, your anxiety builds, as you notice that key deadlines are fast-approaching. You can’t wrap your head around just one task so you do multiple—finding in time, you forfeited your opportunity to truly deliver results that matter to you and your company.

In our wired world of 24/7 communication, can we truly quiet our minds and produce great work, without falling victim to insurmountable stress?  In short, the answer is: yes. Mindfulness— intentionally focusing on the present in a nonjudgmental way works. When Harvard professor Bill George presented his ideas on authentic leadership in 2011, he had the opportunity to ask the Dalai Lama, “How does one become mindful?”  To his comfort, the Dalai Lama responded that it involves daily mindful practices.

We spoke with leading experts in mindful leadership who incorporate it into their profession and personal lives: Ordained minister and physician Dr. Chris T. Pernell, author of Letters to My People: Inspirational Essays, Poems and Affirmations  and founder of My Body & Me—a health and wellness initiative; owner of Lotus Yoga and Lotus in Action Jennifer Kohl; and Reiki master Deborah Flanagan, owner of Center for True Health.

HEALTH IS PART OF THE BOTTOM LINE

Health and well-being should be a part of a company’s bottom-line, according to Dr. Chris T. Pernell, who commits to her everyday mantra: “Let’s go well together.” In the workplace, Dr. Pernell says, “When you have a healthy worker, you have a more productive and satisfied worker who is more eager to produce desirable outcomes.” She continued, “Wherever we can incorporate holistic priorities in the workplace, we should. That’s going to allow that firm or organization to achieve its bottom line. Health is a part of the bottom line.”

Flanagan may attest to that.

When Deborah Flanagan was diagnosed with an incurable thyroid disease years ago, she had just started studying Reiki, a spiritual hands-on healing technique, which promotes wellness and balance.  She was not attune with her herself, as she was just beginning her journey in mindfulness. Flanagan was also not immune to the pressures that came from over 14 years of leadership experience in the not-for-profit sector. “I think if I had learned about Reiki a couple years earlier I might have listened to my body and made changes to keep from pushing and acting quite so type A!” she explains.  In Flanagan’s case, Reiki has improved her lifestyle—one example: overcoming her thyroid disease without medication and leading her own wellness center.

DECISION-MAKING PROCESS

According to Jennifer Kohl, in the business of yoga, “Mindful leadership means working with others in the interest of what best serves the community at large,” she adds, “I try to make business decisions that are in line with the yogic worldview which essentially is acting in the interest of the greater good as opposed to acting in a way that is only self-gratifying.”

Keeping this yogic perspective in mind, Kohl made the mindful decision to personally work on a political campaign for Newark Mayoral candidate Ras Baraka, a candidate she feels embodies this perspective best.

It is this type of emotional intelligence, which lends itself as a vital tool within the workplace: the ability to acknowledge and be aware of other individual perspectives—beside your own. It is this awareness that transforms teams and creates a more amicable work environment.

Whatever your chosen mindful practice: prayer, journaling, yoga, Reiki—it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment.  “I’ve learned that meditation doesn’t have to be sitting for 30 minutes. I’m a big fan of 1-minute meditations and incorporate those throughout my day, whether I’m on the subway, waiting in line, or even in a meeting,” says Flanagan.

For it to work, you have to make it a top priority.  Flanagan’s clients have went as far as scheduling their 1-minute meditations during the work day, using their Outlook calendar as a reminder. They found that not only were they more productive—their bosses and clients noticed a positive difference, too.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Kohl and Dr. Pernell discovered that they had to change their language and approach to get the results they craved at work.

Once Dr. Pernell’s patients became purposefully engaged, a skill she lends to mindfulness, they arrived at better results. “When it’s a truly shared decision making process, that person is more compliant to the prescribed method of action—to achieve a certain outcome,” says Dr. Pernell.

In the workplace, being cognizant about other individual’s dreams and goals as it relates to your own is crucial, Kohl found, when reflecting on key lessons she learned from being a business owner for over 20 years. “One of the keys to mindful leadership is really paying attention to those who work with you: understanding and respecting their strengths and weaknesses and structuring your organization accordingly (in a way that is uplifting for all),” Kohl says.

How will you use mindful leadership in your workplace? #Soundoff and follow Amanda on Twitter @ebokosia.

Amanda A. Ebokosia is a freelance writer and founder of The Gem Project Inc., a not-for-profit organization that creates educational enrichment programs for youth and young adults. She is also a professional leadership consultant, who offers services and seminars for corporate and professional clients. A sought-after speaker and writer on topics of leadership, education, and empowerment, Ebokosia has spoken and led programs at educational institutions and companies including Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, AOL Patch NY, Montclair YMCA (Teen Travel Camp), United Way of Essex and West Hudson and more.

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