By Laura Montgomery // This article was originally posted on execed.economist.com.
Think of qualities and behaviours popularly used to describe effective, authentic leaders: focus, observation, objectivity, balanced decision-making. These are precisely the characteristics cultivated through mindfulness meditation. And today, even the most profit-driven companies and c-suiters are turning to mindfulness techniques to help them manage stress, control their attention, and make better decisions in the workplace. You’ll also find more and more executive training courses on leadership and management starting to incorporate mindfulness training. What is this trend all about?
Yes we koan
Google made headlines a couple years ago when it started offering a ragingly successful seven-week class to employees called “Search Inside Yourself”. CEOs like Salesforce’s Marc Benioff and LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner have also touted the bottom-line benefits of meditation. Meanwhile, at Nike, General Mills, Target and Aetna you’ll now find in-house classes that teach employees how doing “nothing” can help them achieve more. And business schools around the world have gotten on board as well, offering one to five-day workshops and seminars with titles like Micro Actions: Mindful Communication for Powerful Impact”, Mindful Leadership”, and Leading Authentically with Mindfulness”.
It’s a trend that executive coach Eden Abrahams of Clear Path Executive Coaching has observed in her work, as well. “Everyone is stretched, stressed, and managing tremendous amounts of information through technology. We have only so much cognitive horsepower—so, it’s hard to be creative and visionary when you’re constantly being bombarded with inbound stimuli.” Executives are turning to mindfulness meditation to improve their capacity for things like:
- Staying focused for long periods of time with less stress
- Listening carefully to others’ perspectives – especially when they conflict with their own
- Reaching decisions based on rational thought processes rather than emotional reactions
- Aligning thoughts and actions with what is most important in their lives
The ROI of being in the moment
What’s more, the positive effects of mindfulness are more than just subjective experiences. “There’s an ever increasing body of research and evidence proving that reducing stress and anxiety and just learning to be present in the moment can have a positive impact on productivity,” says Abrahams. For example, in a 2014 study, researchers at INSEAD and Wharton concluded that as little as 15 minutes of meditation can help managers make more profitable decisions by helping to overcome the “sunk cost bias” – the cognitive tendency to continue an undertaking once an investment has been made in order to recover or validate “sunk” costs.
Until you find time for a mindfulness seminar or even a full retreat, you might check out these tips for incorporating “micro meditations” throughout the day to see how it impacts your business behaviour.