This article is the fifth in a series on mindful leadership from expert and consultant Puja Madan. To understand what “mindful leadership” is and why it’s critical for your organization, read this article. To find out how creating trust among your team can transform your business, keep reading.
As their healthcare company grew, so did the sales management team — and Jim found himself struggling to master his communications.
How could he effectively communicate the new changes to managers while also keeping them feeling secure, loyal, and motivated? How could he navigate the managers’ different communication styles and provide constructive and meaningful feedback? How could he help his team navigate the stresses of a cyclical business?
Communication is the thread that allows leaders to create a culture of trust and commitment. A group of bright and diverse thinkers creates a dynamic environment with multiple ideas, goals, and visions. It is the work of mindful leadership and conscious communication to forge a unified vision.
Poor communication can easily lead to conflict and mistrust, which is both distracting and costly to organizations. In a 2008 study, U.S. employees spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict. This amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours. There are other costs too: 25% of employees said that avoiding conflict led to sickness or absence from work and 10% reported that workplace conflict led to project failure.
The solution is to build a culture that reflect leaders’ natural instinct to connect and bring out the best in their employees. We can do this through mindful communication frameworks.
A Company Culture of Mindful Communication
Mindful communication frameworks have a profound impact on the health and profitability of a company. A culture of conscious communication from the top-down helps a company in the following ways:
Reduces Stress in the Workplace
With conscious communication systems, employees don’t feel over-worked, anxious, and burdened by urgent deadlines. It creates a culture of safety, calm, and clarity that allows for improved productivity, increased creativity, and better morale. Team members who go home feeling productive and fulfilled show up as better family and community members with no residual stress (that they again bring with them to work the next day).
Creates Trust and Psychological Safety
Leaders who embrace mindful communication are able to create a culture of belongingness and safety for teams. When teams feel safe, they become more open-minded, resilient, and motivated. This in turn fuels other positive emotions like curiosity, confidence, and innovation.
Establishes Clear Needs and Expectations
Mindful communication ensures needs and expectations are expressed and teams are able to carry out their tasks with clarity and confidence. Without this clarity, employees can pick the wrong priorities and perform poorly as a result. A mindful leader clearly communicates expectations, needs, and priorities.
Addresses and Resolves Conflict
Unnecessary confusion and frustration can be avoided when communication from the top down is intentional, clear, and empathic. Emails are particularly in need of mindfulness because of the misinterpretation of tone and meaning. Without mindful communication, trust can wane, causing uncertainty, misunderstandings, and lack of loyalty.
Improves Morale and Loyalty
When conflicts are addressed mindfully, and intense emotions considered with compassion and openness, it can supercharge the company’s goals. Mindful leaders automatically bring high levels of emotional intelligence to the table, shifting workplace survival mode into a culture that’s all about thriving, invigorating, and innovating. Everyone feels aligned with the company’s mission and deadlines, while feeling supported to explore their full potential as well.
Sparks Employees’ Full Potential
Mindful leaders are able to use communication to create safe spaces for their team members, allowing them to be fully seen and fully heard. Every employee seeks to reach their potential with the right mentorship and guidance from their boss. Being communicated to in a style and tone that resonates can spark the powerful employee talents needed to complete projects and meet company goals.
Customer and Client Care
Mindful communication frameworks integrated within the company culture start to show immediately in how a company communicates with its clients or customers. Clear, conscious communication in all marketing processes lets current and potential customers know the company plans to serve and care for them. A fantastic fringe benefit? Companies attract more customer who align with their values and repel all others, saving precious time and money with managing problem customers.
Creating Trust Through the Practice of Mindfulness
The benefits of mindful communication are vast and deep. But how do you bring this sort of communication into your company? Here are six ways you can infuse mindfulness into your workplace communication:
1. Take a Pause
Set a timer to go off two minutes before scheduled individual and group meetings. Use these two minutes to become fully present: take a few deep breaths, declutter from previous activities, and clear your mind. This brief pause will reset and reenergize you with the purpose of the meeting and everything that can grow from it.
2. Set Intentions
Oprah never walks into a meeting without checking with everyone: “What’s the intention of this meeting?” This invites everyone to step out of auto-pilot mode, pause, and reflect on the priorities for this particular discussion. It also a great way to check if everyone is aligned with the purpose and intention of the meeting.
3. Pick a Neutral Space
This is particularly true for one-on-one meetings with subordinates. If the meeting is about feedback or performance, pick a space that belongs to neither person: a conference room, a park bench outside, etc. Our environments are conditioned and power dynamics can influence the trust and safety levels of those less powerful.
4. Set the Tone
By demonstrating your full presence during a meeting or conversation, you are leading the way and setting a standard for everyone. Turn off your phone and laptop and invite others to do the same. Before I begin coaching sessions, I ask my clients if they are in a space where they are comfortable and won’t be disturbed for the duration of our call. This invites them to be intentional and fully present for our time together.
5. Listen Actively
Consider giving your full attention to the person speaking without making notes, checking email, or engaging in other distractions. Each time you find your thoughts wander to the past or future, gently guide them back to the present moment and be available. When we give our full presence and listen deeply, we’re not just available for what is being said, but what is not being said through tone and energy. Mindful leaders are masters at picking up on the subtleties and refocusing and redirecting projects and meetings if necessary.
6. Speak Consciously
When it’s your turn to speak, do so with intention, clarity, and mindful pauses. Buddhist teachings offer a great filter before speaking, especially for leaders who want to lead consciously. Before you speak, as this about what you’re about to say:
- Is it necessary?
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
If what you’re about to say doesn’t meet all three filters, it’s probably a good idea to continue listening.
Try These Tools for Creating Trust
If you try one or more of these recommendations at your next meeting, afterward take a moment to reflect on your experience. How did you show up differently? How did everyone else at the meeting respond to your leadership? What were the results — tangible or intangible — that you’d like to replicate in the future?
Next week, we will continue our exploration of mindful leadership with our final article — Creating Inclusiveness: Exploring Implicit Bias and Rewiring the Brain.