The modern world, even the modern workplace, is a complex environment in which we are expected to lead, move comfortably in strange circumstances and to process increasing volumes of information efficiently; all whilst organisational structures change constantly around us. A new approach to leadership and management may be needed: the key to effectively utilising leadership and managerial skills within this complex mosaic takes presence of mind.
Late 2014 I visited both Baghdad (Iraq) and Erbil (Kurdistan). A member of the US contingent present at the time asked that I spend some time with her, in order to establish what elements of my (UK born and trained) personality where involved in the ability to lead in contrast with her American cohort. Last year (2015) this psychologist explored those characteristics via a battery of tests: the key question being why I felt confident and competent to take command and, conversely, why both US and Iraqi troops were seemingly content to readily accept foreign leadership. 500 hundred questions and several months later – the results are … I was told it is all to do with my mindset and a concept called … ‘mindfulness’.
I had no idea what that meant … so I sought her opinion. It turns out that there are experts that can help anyone to develop this particular mindset; a mindset that all natural leaders seemingly enjoy.
Let me explain … these people help appointed leaders (not necessarily ‘natural leaders’) who wish to win the trust and respect of those they are now leading, by chasing their own mindset.
It seems that leaders that practice ‘mindfulness’ can offer real savings to organisations (backed up by evidence based statistics) through an improvement in days lost at work due to stress, anxiety and depression and enhanced individual performance, resilience and engagement.
Mindfulness teaches you how to manage your mind. By becoming more aware of your thoughts, emotions and physiology in the present moment you can change the way you respond, break out of unhelpful behaviours and thought patterns; and find a healthier more productive way to work.
Mindfulness has been the subject of thousands of research studies. In recent years, advances in brain scanning technology have helped us discover how mindfulness training can change the structure of the brain for the better. Leading organisations such as Google, Apple, the Department of Health, NHS Trusts, and Transport for London are amongst the many organisations who now offer mindfulness training to their staff. Mindfulness has become a hot topic for discussion with world leaders at the World Economic Forum, 10 Downing Street and in the White house.
One such UK expert is Myra McHale, who provides mindfulness training for groups of between ten to thirty people. She gives talks and taster sessions to enable people to decide if they have a curiosity and openness to learning more about Mindfulness. The training is normally carried out in a standard meeting room with no requirement for special equipment, ideally for 1 hour a week over a 6 week period
Key ideas are clearly explained with the aid of presentations and group activities in a familiar workplace learning environment. This gives a sound understanding of the benefits of mindfulness and how the mind works before experiencing short guided mindfulness exercises and developing mindfulness outside the training environment.
This not my area of expertise, nevertheless I suggest that if you are an appointed leader (military, civil servant or commercial) wishing to gain more support from your juniors, I recommend first gaining the right mindset …
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