Mindfulness, yoga, Zen – the buzz words we hear every day that we must do because of our over stimulated, hyper-connected, high stress world as a business owner. There are so many things going on at once in many cases as an entrepreneur and in many times its difficult to focus on one thing instead of capital requirements, marketing, sales, distribution, employee morale, financials,new partners, etc. all at once. One more thing to add to the endless list – Mindfulness. Can it really help your business?
There are currently 38,700,000 results just by typing the word in Google. We hear it over and over again: stay in the present and focus on your breath. Through personal practice, it does help with focus by concentrating on one thing at a time, which improves life fulfillment. However, the practice takes time to notice the “different” feeling on how to handle stress – sometime difficult for hard-driving type A personalities. Believe me, it’s difficult to do when first starting out as the mind will continue to wander!
There are plenty of studies of showing the impact and change of the brain through regular mindfulness sessions. The 2011 Harvard study is one cited often: “It was found that there were dramatic boosts of gray matter density following a routine of mindfulness sessions.
One of the classic examples of how a leader received ‘buy in” through adding regular mindfulness sessions is NBA’s Phil Jackson – former coach of the Chicago Bulls, LA Lakers and now President of the New York Knicks. As Phil mentions in his book, Eleven Rings (this is an intriguing read even if you are not an NBA fan) – the 11 Principals of Mindful Leadership:
- Lead from the Inside Out
- Bench the Ego
- Let Each Player Discover His Own Destiny
- The Road to Freedom is a Beautiful System
- Turn the Mundane into the Sacred
- One Breath = One Mind
- The Key to Success is Compassion
- Keep Your Eye on the Spirit, Not on The Scoreboard
- Sometimes You have to Pull out the Big Stick
- When in Doubt Do Nothing
- Forget the Ring
The book captures these principals with examples and the impact while coaching such great players as Jordan, Pippen, Bryant and Shaq.
“Build the muscle of the mind,” so that players can clear away emotionally and mentally unhealthy pressure and perform at a high level.” “Through a mix of meditation, Zen, Tai Chi, Yoga and common sense, the sessions help athletes reduce competitive anxiety and stress, both of which can degrade performance.”
The number of organizations that offer mindfulness as part of their corporate culture through training continues to grow, including General Mills, Aetna, Green Mountain Coffee, Goldman Sachs, Target, Blackrock, and Bank of America. It’s not just Silicon Valley tech companies – (Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” mindfulness program is taken by thousands of employees and has an extensive waiting list).
David Gelles mentions in his book Mindful Work – (another interesting read on how meditation can change business), “when Aetna rolled out its big mindfulness program, after the first full year, they saw out-of-pocket healthcare costs go down. In other words, they found cost-savings to introducing these programs. It wasn’t a drag on the bottom line, it was a boost to it.” However, all companies that have implemented mindfulness have not been a success, Monsanto being one who dropped the program according to Gelles.
It’s important to evaluate the potential “shock, weird, hippie” crazy thoughts you might receive by your team by considering rolling out mindfulness throughout your culture. It’s difficult to show every financial impact to the organization with mindfulness, however it can open possibilities of team members becoming more focused, sensitive to company matters and not over-reacting to customers complaints, etc.
Beyond all the hype, more than anything, mindfulness practiced regularly will reduce stress and that’s not a bad thing.