Mindfulness in Business. Silly or Sacred?

February 15, 2015
February 15, 2015 Joe Britto

Scroll through the Harvard Business Review or Forbes and you may come across articles on mindfulness in business.

In fact the idea of mindfulness in business is so popular right now, as the Economist puts it “selling mindfulness has become a business in its own right”. There’re lots of courses more than happy to offer insight into just what it means and how to get it.

All well and good, but there’re other voices too. Voices like Fast Company who paint the corporate world’s attempt to gain mindfulness as co-opting Eastern philosophies.

But does that matter?

What is Mindfulness Anyway?

Inherited from meditation traditions, mindfulness is being fully aware of what’s happening now. No thoughts about what you did last night or will do next week. No judgements about what’s right or wrong or who did what to whom. It’s about noticing what’s going on in the world right now without any judgement and with full acceptance.

If that sounds easy, put your device down for one minute and try it.

Back? And it’s about that difficult for us all.

What’s It Got To Do With Business?

Your professional world is fast paced. Perhaps not all the time, but a lot of the time. There’re meetings, decisions and staff to take care of. People read volumes into everything you say, every email you send. Your direct reports do a good job but some are hard to deal with. And in all of that you need to lead. To be seen to make the right choices; to treat everyone fairly and do the best for your organization.

And we haven’t even mentioned your personal life.

It’s a juggling act and sometimes it feels like it takes all you’ve got just to keep the balls in the air.

But now imagine that kind of pace doesn’t cause you stress. Imagine you feel calm and focused in the middle of it all. Imagine hearing everything that needs to be heard, taking time to digest it, and making decisions in a space free of pressure and necessity.

What would that do for your performance? For the way you interact with others? And, because they follow your lead, the way your staff interact with each other?

Is Mindfulness in Business Co-Opting a Sacred Tradition?

For Fast Company, the answer’s a definitive “Yes!” And it’s for the simple reason that if we’re getting on the mindfulness bandwagon to get ahead, well, as Fast Company puts it, those are the kind of “motivations that’d piss a monk off.”

And who knows, maybe there’re some who take up mindfulness to get ahead.

But to object on those grounds is missing the point.

Mindfulness: A Route to Authenticity

When I used to practice Aikidō it wouldn’t be uncommon for a newbie to show up thinking they were going to become a badass martial arts expert.

Some held onto that idea for months, others for years. But eventually, they’d get the point: really following the path of Aikidō means never having to use Aikidō.

My point is it doesn’t matter what our motivation for starting Aikidō is. Eventually we’ll find out what it means.

The same is true for mindfulness. If we think it gives us a competitive edge, makes us calmer or make better decisions. Fine. If we think it helps us respond better to others or cut through the noise. That’s great.

Because what mindfulness can do, if practised long enough, is help us become more us. Or, said another way, it helps us be authentic. And what that does is help us be more honest, more courageous and more resilient. And that makes us an effective leader.

Effective Leadership

The ability to be fully present is innate in each of us. It just takes practice. That’s why at Innate Leaders we support any attempt to deepen and sharpen our innate skills. After all, leadership isn’t just one skill, it’s a combination of skills deployed with insight and self awareness.


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