As a leader who believes in the power and value of mindfulness, I know that my behaviour, values, and actions shape the workplace and influence company culture.
This has become increasingly clear to my team and I as we adjust to working from home.
Just before a team meeting last week, I received a call from a team member who has been with us for a little under a year. It had been some time since we had a casual chat, and it was great to catch up and see how he was doing.
After inquiring about how he was adjusting and a brief chat about COVID-19 (I’ve found that this is inevitable), I asked how the rest of his family was doing.
“That’s actually the reason why I called you, Michael,” he said, “My wife’s been feeling under the weather for a little while now. The doctor ruled out COVID-19, but she’s had so many deadlines at work and so many employees got laid off at her office. She didn’t want to take a risk and kept working, when she knew she needed to rest.”
When I asked if everything was alright, he said “She’s feeling a lot worse, so she finally decided to take a few days off. Just wanted to let you know what was going on because I’ll be taking care of her, so I might not be as responsive.”
I replied immediately – yes, of course, he could take the time he needed to take care of his wife and I offered him some time off work too.
To my surprise, he said “Thank you but I’m comfortable to keep working. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes. I think I definitely lucked out when it comes to working from home. I’ve seen the stress and pressure on my wife and I just haven’t had that experience.”
I’m very happy to report that his wife has made a full recovery since and they’re both doing well and are supporting each other through this quarantine. Thinking back to that conversation, however, those last few seconds of our chat was one of the most gratifying things to hear as a leader.
As a leader, the fact that a team member felt comfortable enough to reach out to me and confide in me revealed that he felt motivated enough in the work environment to adapt to drastic changes, without adding to any other stress he may be experiencing.
This shows me that I have, at the very least, made a few right decisions that have benefited our corporate culture. Along the way, mindful practices have played such a critical role. Personally and professionally, it has helped me become the person I never thought I would be.
Mindful practices make you a better leader
Mindful practices and their benefits for leaders transcend beyond the personal benefits you experience through mindfulness.
When my team member called to let me know about his personal circumstances, the first thing I thought was wow. This is what effective communication looks like in an organisation that has transitioned smoothly into new working practices. It also showed me what engaged and driven employees I have, who are motivated to work, even in challenging circumstances.
As a mindful leader, it is my responsibility to make sure my team is effective and engaged and that my values align with my leadership. This helps me build trust among my teams, inspire them, share my vision, and empower them to achieve their highest potential while fostering a healthy working environment.
To achieve this, a mindful leader has to be wise, empathetic and respectful, and a keen interpreter of human behaviour.
According to Marc Lesser, a mindful leader has seven qualities – love the work, do the work, don’t be an expert, connect to your pain, connect to the pain of others, depend on others, and keep making it simpler. The work he refers to, here, are mindful practices.
This is true. As a mindful leader, I’m always striving to learn more and do better, understand myself more, listen to my employees, and trust their judgement. Last but not least, I prioritise creating a working environment that enhances the mental and physical health of my employees – not just sustains it.
Mindful practices, such as simple breathing exercises or meditation, give me the self-awareness, focus, patience, and empathy I need to be an effective mindful leader.