Most leaders would like to think they’re effective at motivating their employees, but numerous studies into workplace culture and morale have revealed that employees are more disengaged and uninspired than ever. One factor that seems to affect morale is the employee’s relationship with the boss. This is also often dictated by the disposition of the manager. The key to motivated employees does not lay with management training or team building days but in looking within: into the mind of the leader.
Based on their years of research on over 35,000 leaders, mindfulness experts Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, of the Potential Project, have conclusively found that three fundamental qualities are central to good leadership qualities: mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion—what they call the ‘MSC Leadership Mind’, the ideal mindset for a successful leader.
There is much debate about whether these traits are learned or innate, but Hougaard and Carter believe that anyone can embrace an MSC leadership mind. By addressing their own needs first, then those of their employees and finally the culture of their organisation, every leader can learn to embody great leadership values in today’s challenging organisational environment.
So, before a leader can motivate and inspire their workforce, they need to feel inspired and motivated themselves. One way of achieving this daily is to practice simple but highly effective mindfulness techniques. Spending a mere 10 minutes a day on mindfulness can subtly change the way you respond to everything by creating a one-second buffer. So rather than being reactionary to situations, you can train your mind to be more proactive. One second may sound short, but it can be the difference between making a rushed decision that leads to failure and reaching a thoughtful conclusion that leads to increased performance. The pause can give you control over your mind, your emotions and your environment.
Essentially, mindfulness impacts the operating system of our brains and over time ‘re-programs’ it to behave in a more considered and rational manner instead of responding impulsively in a fight or flight way. Hougaard and Carter believe that one second can be the difference between achieving desired results or not. In that one second lies the opportunity to improve the way you decide and direct, the way you engage and lead. That’s an enormous advantage for leaders in fast-paced, high-pressure jobs.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
- Enhanced decision making
- Effective communication
- Stronger teams and leaders
- Superior creativity and innovation
- Improved engagement
- Confidence around change
- Greater resilience
- Positive wellbeing
There is more than one way to practice mindfulness but each way focuses on achieving the same result; to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation. Practice 10-15 minutes of mindfulness training each day – at any time although mornings are most effective.
- Focus on strategic work and important conversations first thing in the morning and leave emails till an hour later to avoid being sidetracked. Our minds are generally most focused, relaxed and effective in the mornings.
- Turn off all notifications on all your devices. These contribute to reactive leadership by keeping you mentally busy. They add pressure, thereby triggering reactionary responses. Check your email once every hour (or as often as responsibly needed for your job), but don’t compulsively check messages as they drop into your inbox.
- Multi-tasking keeps your mind full, busy and under pressure making you reactive. So instead try to maintain focus on a single task. If your mind drifts to other tasks, mentally refocus your attention on the task at hand.
- Get support. Ask a colleague to join in mindfulness practice. This gives you a chance to assess each other, which can be both helpful and motivating.
Regular practice over time will make mindfulness easier and you will find your mind drifting less and less. Although mindfulness can’t fix everything, it will certainly help you to be more alert to decisions and behaviour and allow you to make more considered choices that will benefit the organisation greatly.
Further reading: The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results
by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter