How workplaces can work better Mindfulness Man Martin Stepek
MANY readers will have experience of workrelated events. I’m frequently asked to do talks on various subjects, nowadays mostly mindfulness, at training days or conferences for leaders of business and non-profit organisations. I try to attend as much of the event as possible, in order to get a feel for the atmosphere, the people attending, and most importantly the culture that seems to fill the room, before I take to the floor.
These events vary enormously. Some are formal and quite staid. Others are self-consciously informal, as if all attending had been firmly instructed that they must be relaxed. And some have a natural and genuinely open feel.
Even before I started teaching mindfulness I used to go to such events in my business and social enterprise careers. A lot of the contributions were very practical, helping people to understand the latest situation in a particular field of interest, or how to improve skills. But some are stilted, as if the speaker had just learned their content from a book, and was parroting it word for word, with no sense that they had ever lived the messages they were sharing.
I often wonder what happens to individuals and organisations after an event. There are many professional “motivational” speakers whose task is to give people a jolt or spark a determination to change their life or their organisation. Some I have found to be authentic and inspiring, others sadly glib and shallow, more showbiz than insightful.
What happens after these events? The combination of busyness at work and home, and the claustrophobic power of the “ways we do things” in the office, quickly force out all of our new energy and determination to change things. Soon the event becomes just another vague memory, one of 100 you’ve attended, been inspired or motivated by, only to find there was no lasting effect.
Yet we absolutely need radical transformations in our workplaces, whether private, public or third sector. It is all about the culture, nothing else. You can tell the moment you walk into a building or a room whether this is a happy place to work in, whether you can be human, warm, kind, joyful, or whether there’s a cold so-called professional atmosphere, where no-one can breathe freely till they leave for home.
Predictably I’d call for a culture of mindfulness in every workplace, as in every home. As in every individual’s mind. The research findings over almost 40 years have shown that being truly mindful brings the following benefits to individuals and therefore ultimately to the culture of their workplace.
Greater sense of contentment, and ability to handle knee-jerk emotional reactions to situations.
A sense of calmness, even when the proverbial hits the fan. l Increased clarity of thinking, meaning better and more inclusive decisions, for the benefit of the organisation, and all involved.
A higher degree of attention and sustained focus, combined with a lighter sense of mind, meaning we get more done, at a better quality, with less fatigue.
Finally, and most importantly, a rise in our sense of compassion for others, and in altruism, the desire to help others without seeking selfish return. This is so needed in the private sector, where the common refrain “we’re not a charity” sinks everyone’s spirits.
Unless and until organisations, and especially their leaders, recognise this, all their well-meant conferences and workshops and training and inspirational talks will be largely a waste of time and money. To paraphrase Tony Blair, our three long-term priorities in work have to be culture, culture, and culture. Without the right culture you can still be successful but it will be a shadowy success, bringing unnecessary misery and boredom to your colleagues, and a sense of absence of trust to society as a whole. A mindfulness culture, one which deliberately and continually develops contentment, clarity, calmness and compassion, is the greatest success any organisation can accomplish. Martin Stepek is founder of TenforZen, offering guided mindfulness sessions in handy, 10 minutes a day, audio courses. Author of four books, he is frequently asked to speak on mindfulness, his remarkable family heritage, and on business. See tenforzen.co.uk and www.martinstepek.com or email email@example.com