Mindfulness and Inclusive Leadership

21 November, 2016
Fleur Bothwick

I was recently asked to speak at an event on mindfulness and at first, I have to admit, I was thrown.  What had quiet contemplation got to do with the hurly burly of my day to day role?  I was to find out that the two have a lot in common.  Mindfulness is about having the ability to pay attention to our moment to moment experiences. To achieve a mental state that allows us to calmly acknowledge and accept what we are feeling through both our thoughts and our physical being.  Being mindful clearly supports active inclusive leadership.  Some of the traits of a good inclusive leader includes

  • they operate in the moment, they are not distracted by thinking of the next meeting, running through their notes of the last meeting, checking their IPhone etc. 
  • they are empathetic, have good listening skills and make sure that everyone in the meeting has a voice.
  • they are aware of their own styles and preferences and are agile enough to flex when working with people who have different styles, and
  • they make well informed decisions.  They are careful about the impact of group think, they encourage challenge and look out for the impact of unconscious bias

The Mindfulness Initiative has just published a great piece of thought leadership about how important it is for people to use mindfulness in the workplace1 and I was really struck with something I read in the forward ‘Success in most organisations relies on the very things that unhappiness and stress erode – collaboration, creativity, cognitive flexibility and effective decision making’.  At EY, to achieve our 2020 business vision, a key focus is on high performing teams and these are the very traits that we are helping our people to develop and nurture.  Mindfulness can help you maintain your mental and physical wellbeing, in terms of how you manage stress, energy and concentration.  It can support your emotional intelligence, helping you to make less biased decisions, feel empathy and show compassion and it can help you be more innovative, be a better problem solver and improve your memory.

Most of us like to think that we are effective at work, multitasking in our busy and demanding roles, but this is often not the case.  I recently hosted a one hour webinar to walk people through the content of a new workshop we were rolling out.  Eighty people attended the call and after the event I was sent a list of their names.  I was interested to see that in addition to the attendance list, there was a column that showed how ‘attentive’ the participants were.  This ranged from 100% down to 3%, with most scores hovering around 40-50%. Bottom line is that whilst they were signed on to my call, many people were checking e-mails and working on other documents.  This is not effective multi-tasking and leads to less productive, lower quality outputs, both for the individual and the organisation.

Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace –