About six months ago, I switched from coffee to tea because I wanted to reduce the influence of caffeine in my life. After a somewhat painful adjustment period, I now look forward to my morning tea ritual as much as I once did my morning cup o’ Joe – and I feel better. Until yesterday morning, though, I hadn’t given much thought to the impact of how I was drinking my tea.
It started with a quote from a Fast Company article about leadership (Buddha Had It Right: Relax the Mind and Productivity Will Follow) that inspired me enough to end up on this index card:
In the article, author Faisal Hoque explains why mindfulness is important in our professional lives. Whether or not you ascribe to Buddhism, we all get value out of bringing our “complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999). More gets done, better. I don’t know about you, but I find that kind of singular focus challenging at work, where I often feel the pull to be in two places (or two mindsets) at once. So, I create little strategies to force mindfulness: I listen to classical music on headphones, go to cafes to work for a change in scenery, come to work early when no one is around, set timers on my phone so I don’t have to watch the clock during meetings, and make a daily list of my top three priorities (which I relish drawing a line through upon completion). Interestingly, though, most of those practices are designed to close out the world to make solo focus easier. The article reminded me to bring more mindfulness to my collaborative experiences.
These days, people who aren’t checking their phones, email, or doing some other kind of work in their head while in conversation with others really stand out. Have you noticed how good it feels to be around these anomalies? How often are your colleagues really giving you their undivided attention (and vice versa)? Make no mistake: inattention is noticed, no matter how sly we are at texting under the table.
Mindfulness is especially important in leaders, and, frankly, I’m not sure how far you can get without it. I’ve had bosses who were rarely mentally present, and it communicated a dangerous message: you and this conversation are not that important. You can’t build loyalty or strong teams if you set that kind of tone. Or, as Hoque says, “In my experience, mindful people make much better leaders than frenetic, aggressive ones. They understand their reactions to stress and crises, and understand their impact on others. They are far better at inspiring people to take on greater responsibilities and at aligning them around common missions and values.”
I encourage you to read the rest of the article and perhaps rethink your own approach to your morning tea (or coffee), your next meeting, or the way you enter and interact at your office tomorrow. And, if you feel so inspired, share how you (or others) are creating mindfulness at work, so that we can all benefit. Maybe you’ll inspire us to be here, now, even more.
(Thanks to Maya Mathias who brought this article to my attention)
Teresa Brazen is the Managing Director of Cooper Professional Education.