How work­places can work bet­ter Mind­ful­ness Man Martin Ste­pek

Sunday Herald Life - - MIND & BODY -

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 ten­ and www.mar­tin­ste­ or email martin@ten­

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