Executive & Leadership Coach Tim Segaller from Rising Minds explores how mindfulness based-resilience can help staff at all levels stay focussed and productive during times of crisis
Life at work is getting ever more complicated and pressured, with multiple demands on our attention and energy. Our current covid-19 crisis is exacerbating these challenges – adding layers of uncertainty and turbulence that none of us are immune to.
Some organisations and their leaders are beginning to realise that old formulas for meeting our current workplace challenges – working harder and following the industry rule-book – don’t really work: they stifle productivity and engagement, and often lead to exhaustion and burnout. To state the obvious, stress is bad for organisations and their people. The most recent Labour Force Survey estimates that 15.4 million work days a year are lost through stress, anxiety and depression.
In this environment, an essential challenge for leaders and organisations is to unlock people’s energy, creativity and inspiration for meeting tough challenges with greater ease and flow. This is about building ‘resilience’ – which is something of a buzzword now in people development. The word often might conjure up an image of being hardened and tough, but that’s not what it’s about. Rather, it describes something more subtle: the ability to respond wisely and flexibly to pressure and setbacks, so that you can stay well in the game for the long haul. This is needed now more than ever: we need to ensure that we don’t add panic to pandemic.
The most tried and tested approach to cultivate this kind of resilience comes from the practice of ‘mindfulness’. With roots in ancient practices, mindfulness is about training the mind to pay attention in the present moment, and is learnt through a range of simple daily meditations and awareness exercises.
Recent neuroscience and clinical research have demonstrated the remarkable effects of mindfulness in helping people to develop focus, calm, and clear thinking. I’ve helped hundreds of people learn these skills – through both in-person and online training programmes – structured around a simple ABC formula:
Awareness – of your mental and physical experience
Being with experience – creating space to deal with intractable problems and challenging emotions
Choosing wisely – by responding flexibly instead of reacting automatically
For a taste of this approach, try this short exercise: Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Notice sensations of breathing in your belly. If your mind gets distracted – by thoughts, memories or plans – just come back to your breathing. Keep doing this for a few minutes. Then return to what you were doing. Notice the differences.
This exercise gives your brain a ‘power rest’, allowing the mind to become clearer and sharper, and the body more energised. It’s like rebooting yourself – so you can approach whatever is ahead of you with more clarity and resolve. This is what resilience is all about, and it’s arguably the most important capacity at work. It allows you to adapt wisely to fast-changing conditions, which is critical for our current challenges.
A growing number of organisations are discovering the transformative effects of mindfulness. Once viewed perhaps as a bit touchy-feely, it’s starting to go mainstream. The results of these programmes point to two main benefits. First, participants are better able to handle the stresses that are an inevitable part of working life – to manage heavy workloads more effectively, and to surf the ‘rhythm’ of the day. Secondly, mindfulness practice can help people significantly improve the people-related skills and tasks that are so critical in every industry.
The good news is that it doesn’t take a massive investment – organisationally or individually – to reap the rewards of mindfulness training – just 10-15 mins of regular daily practice can have a hugely positive impact. And thanks to online training – like our e-learning resilience programme – the learning can be done at a time and place to suit you. Mindfulness could well be exactly what’s needed for organisations and their people to weather these current storms.
Rising Minds helps leaders and teams stay resilient, inspired and connected – in the face of complex pressures and demands. For more information about their workplace resilience courses and coaching programmes, go to risingminds.org.uk/services
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