THREE BENEFITS IN USING THE POWER OF MINDFULNESS
by Erika Marcoux
Mindfulness is sweeping across the United States and its importance to an organization’s success is supported by an ever-growing body of scientific evidence. Large companies like Google, Yahoo, Intel, and Target publicly attribute mindfulness in increasing bottom-line results. What does the CEO need to know about mindfulness and its role in employee production?
Mindfulness is an inherent and imperative skill with tangible benefits. It is paying attention on purpose in the present moment with acceptance, and not judging thoughts in the moment they occur. As CEOs are experiencing, and neuroscientists are confirming, mindfulness increases productivity, higher-level thinking, problem solving, and business relationships. Most importantly it decreases stress.
It’s Stressful on Top
The CEO has distinctive areas of stress that include the fast pace in which they work, the difficulty of firing employees, and no one to confide in which leads to social isolation. The demands of the work include non-stop meetings and making difficult decisions with total responsibility on a daily basis. The stress level of CEOs has a trickle-down effect and direct influence on the stress of the employees.
Too much stress is the biggest barricade to the productivity of any organization. One of the primary reasons high-tech pioneer Steve Jobs was so successful is that he understood this inherent truth and the importance of developing his mind to overcome it. So how does mindfulness work?
The CEO’s mind is busy all the time. There is the ability to observe the mind and notice an internal dialogue taking place. This internal dialogue includes about 50,000 thoughts a day that are mostly negative, repetitive, and unconscious. Mindfulness training is a skill in noticing these thoughts and developing the ability to let them go.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies show that brain function improves greatly after consistent meditation with a thickening of the pre-frontal cortex. The pre-frontal cortex governs higher-level thinking. This type of thinking is imperative in performing the duties of the CEO to lead the organization out of the weeds and to success.
Leadership is a Choice
When the mind of the CEO is filled with negative and unproductive thoughts, choice is lost. There is an inability to take a calculated risk and impulsive action can dominate. Stress causes thinking to be pessimistic with an inability to be open to new opportunities due to fear.
There is a physiological reason for this loss of choice. When stressed, changes in the brain occur that are responsible for ceasing the productive thoughts and behavior that are so crucial in effective leadership. Mindfulness is a practice of regaining control of the brain.
Stress is an external force, which can be real or imagined that is met while seeking to maintain internal balance. When stressed, the brain signals adrenaline to release and the fight or flight reaction occurs. It takes the body 12 to 24 hours to get rid of adrenaline. It’s easier to prevent this stress effect from occurring in the first place rather than allowing it to run its course.
With developing the mental skill of mindfulness, the CEO has the ability to remain objective without being subjected to the dramatic highs and lows of the untrained mind. The ability to lead with optimism and empowerment prevail. This is the type of trickle-down effect that inspires employees to reach their highest potential.
Building an Effective Team
The human capital of an organization is the collective skills of employees that include social relationships. When stress at the C-suite level prevails, these relationships can crumble along with morale and work performance. Companies then lose their most valuable asset, which is human talent, and fail to maintain an A-caliber team.
It is the role of the CEO to bring in talented people, manage them well, and ensure that the company keeps them motivated. Maintaining relationships, goodwill, and social resilience are accomplished with mindfulness training. These skills include being an efficient reader of people, being willing to trust, and displaying emotion while remaining in control. Another word for this discipline is emotional regulation.
Loss of emotional control is a result of a part of the brain, called the amygdala, becoming activated and causing the person to behave irrationally. Mindfulness allows information to reach the pre-frontal cortex so that higher-level thinking can be restored. The ability to pause before reacting is a key component of emotional regulation. This practice can be as simple and profound as choosing to take a deep breath instead of behaving irrationally.
The mental skill of emotional regulation is the secret in developing an organization based on a collaborative and motivated work force rather than fear and unproductivity. People are the most important asset and investing in mindfulness training can be the determining factor of an organization’s success. CEOs including John Mackey, Mark Benioff, and Jeff Weiner are using mindfulness to lower stress levels and boost cognitive functioning, productivity, and even empathy.
Erika Marcoux, MA is the co-CEO and co-Founder of Cornerstone: Mindfulness for Life, a leading firm that empowers executive leadership and their employees. Erika’s work focuses on bringing mindfulness to businesses to decrease stress and increase their bottom line. CornerstoneMindfulness.com