Mindfulness is a hot topic these days. It involves mental techniques (some call it meditation) to help you focus on the present versus fretting about the past or worrying about the future. There is a growing body of research suggesting that mindfulness improves concentration, reduces stress, and increases performance.
I didn't have to be sold on the benefits of being present. I have observed many leaders over the past 25 years who have lost focus due to the pressures of change. Many would panic when faced with situations new to them. I could feel their desperation. They would either make a quick decision based on their gut or the first seemingly credible data point. Both approaches were disastrous, laying landmines that would explode months later.
Stepping back to take stock of a situation leads to better decision making. Openness and reflection replace immediacy and reflex that are associated with the 'fight or flight' response. Taking time to gain a balanced perspective enables leaders to employ their skills and experience to make the best decision.
The mindfulness program is designed by MindWell, a company with a tagline of "less stress, more joy, peak performance". The data from our session will be part of a University of British Columbia research study assessing the program's effectiveness on skills and behaviours in the workplace.
My first task was to complete a 10-minute questionnaire. Whenever I complete a survey I try to analyze the intent behind the questions asked – what do they want to know; what are they measuring? I noticed that many of my answers were either strongly agree or strongly disagree. I wonder what my 'before' profile suggests about my level of mindfulness?
The first daily lesson taught me a technique called 'Take 5'. It is a 5-step process where you focus on your surroundings and how you breathe. By doing so you refocus on the present. My assignment (and commitment) is to Take 5 five times a day.
Any development program needs goals to define learning and measure progress. Mine are:
- Maximize performance by being more present-focused and "in the zone"
- Document the benefits I gain when I am more present
- Identify applications for leaders and their teams when going through change
People can feel panicked, fearful, overwhelmed or 'freak outed' when confronted with change. Mindfulness may be an effective approach to staying present and focused on adopting new ways of working. Anything that helps them to be at their best is worth investing in.