As we saw in Part One, businesses are duty-bound to set out specific goals and projected returns – but authentic mindfulness doesn’t respond well to this kind of marshalling. So where does that leave us? Is ‘corporate mindfulness’ a self-cancelling oxymoron, or can we somehow reconcile these tensions?
Despite its challenges, I believe we should welcome and encourage any interest in mindfulness in the workplace. It points to a deep-rooted human need to connect more effectively with ourselves, with others and with a source of real meaning in our working lives. And it holds huge potential for the business world because it’s a key to unlocking the fuller potential of its workforce. This is mission-critical as the War for Talent places an ever-higher premium on ‘softer skills’ like emotional intelligence, creativity and inner agility.
So we need to persevere through the awkward growing pains of corporate mindfulness, recognising good intentions, untangling misconceptions and, when necessary, refocusing attention on real human needs and benefits. Businesses may have to accept that the corporate mindfulness path doesn’t look quite how they expected; they will need to relinquish some control in terms of the route it takes and the pinnacle it reaches. Like the old apocryphal essay title: “Is this a question?”, (“Yes, if this is an answer…”), perhaps the best manifestation of a goal-less goal is a result-less result?!
What does that actually mean in language that’s less ‘zen’ and more relatable for the business community? It’s a question that invites fuller exploration and I will revisit it in a future blog. In the meantime, here are a few initial thoughts and doorways into further inquiry:
1. BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS’S ISSUES AND INTENTIONS
If you’re considering a corporate mindfulness programme, be crystal clear about why you’re going there – the different benefits you’re seeking, the underlying needs of the business, and the root causes of any current issues. Is mindfulness an appropriate response? Are you looking at it as a diversion or coping mechanism instead of (also) dealing directly with the sources of dysfunction? It’s not about setting hard goals and targets, but about clarifying your purpose and intentions as one side of the equation.
2. BE OPEN IN ACKNOWLEDGING AND NEGOTIATING TENSIONS
When designing or selling in a corporate mindfulness programme, commit to absolute transparency and honesty about the challenges of meeting both business and employee needs. What’s the best way to reconcile the short-term business performance mission with employees’ personal sustainability needs (in the sense of being able to sustain their energy, wellbeing and sense of fulfilment over the long-term)? How can you design an approach and evaluation criteria which emphasise employee welfare and engagement as an end in itself, not as another enabler of business performance. Yes, it’s tricky to acknowledge the tensions and negotiate a balance, but there’s huge value just in having that kind of open discussion. Don’t gloss over it – and beware the dreaded ‘lip service’ solutions.
3. BE A CHAMPION OF ‘USER EXPERIENCE’
When moving forward with a corporate mindfulness programme, hold it lightly; don’t inadvertently squeeze the life out of it. Remember to bring a spirit of curiosity, sensitivity and creativity – not just within the mindfulness practice itself but in how you position and embed it within the organisation. It may help to see this as akin to developing an innovation culture or a user-centred design process. It’s about divergent thinking which seeks to expand minds and possibilities rather than to nail down plans and metrics. It requires a willingness to embrace bottom-up experience and open-ended outcomes, even (or especially) the disruptive ones. That’s the way towards game-changing improvements and growth – for your employees and, as a positive side-effect, for your business too.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THESE IDEAS FURTHER IN A COACHING SESSION OR WORKSHOP, PLEASE CONTACT ME TO ARRANGE AN INTRODUCTORY SESSION OR TO ASK ANY QUESTIONS.