Research continues to show how mindfulness programs, whether through meditation, yoga, and even apps, can help people calm their mind and better manage stress. Top companies from Google to JPMorgan to Aetna, Inc. have taken notice and begun to implement them as a way to productivity.
For instance, after more than 13,000 Aetna employees took up yoga and meditation as part of the company's expanded wellness program, CEO Mark T. Bertolini, found that, on average, the group reported a 28 percent reduction in their stress levels. They also increased weekly production by an average of 62 minutes.
But mindfulness programs are more than just the bottom line. Implementing them into your business also teaches valuable leadership and management skills.
I recently caught up with three corporate mindfulness experts at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco. Here is their advice on how to best launch and practice what you preach when rolling out a mindfulness program in your company.
1. Earn credibility.
Always try your mindfulness program before it's introduced company-wide. "If you haven't practiced the program, you won't have much credibility," said David Treleaven, a leading corporate mindfulness expert and author of Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness. "By experiencing the program yourself beforehand, you can offer valuable guidance and helpful tips to others."
Employees will also be more accepting when they know you find value in it. When I began yoga, I wasn't comfortable incorporating it into my business life or talking about it at work. However, when I opened up about it with my team, they began to ask questions and some even shared their experience with the practice. This created stronger work relationships and helped to strengthen my credibility about a topic some people were unfamiliar with.
2. Teach and educate.
People often resist anything that appears like extra work. Yet, introducing a mindfulness program can be a teaching moment about how it benefits people's daily work.
Rich Fernandez, CEO of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, who teaches business leaders how to incorporate mindfulness into the workday, suggests explaining how the program can help with challenging tasks, like conducting meetings, working with different personality types, and creating high-performing teams.
He equates it to how people can add extra exercise into their daily routine without feeling overwhelmed. "You can take the stairs or walk or bike to work and not feel as if you always have to make extra time for exercise," he said. In this way, your team can see mindfulness programs as something they need, and can easily add into the spaces within their day, rather than something they have to do or dedicate a significant amount of time to.
I have found some easy ways to create micro moments of mindfulness within the workday. For example, I shorten meetings by five minutes to allow everyone a mental break before moving to their next task. I also like to begin each meeting with a two-minute mini meditation to help everyone be more present.
3. Improve communication.
"Energy follows intention," says Dr. Richard Strozzi, founder of the Strozzi Institute, an organization that offers blended leadership training programs based on neuroscience, action-oriented communication, conflict training, and martial arts.
Mindfulness programs can train you to better focus your energy and deal with stressful interactions in a more positive way. Strozzi says that it is "Through practice that we can train out attention and thus bring embodiment to our commitments."
For example, Strozzi suggests that when conversing with a customer or co-worker who cuts you off or keeps you from speaking, use mindfulness to center yourself, breathe, and then make a request or counter offer like, "I hear your point, but let me offer something else for consideration." This way you can change the energy and shape the conversation into something beneficial for both parties.
My approach in similar situations is to allow sufficient space before responding. I let the person know I understood what they had to say, and I will think it over and respond to in the next day or so. This way I can clear any negative emotions to ensure I see all sides of the situation whether it's a business problem or work relationship issue.
Mindfulness programs continue to help people manage stress and anxiety and more corporations have adopted them as a way to increase productivity. While there are many benefits to such programs, the process of implementing them into your business offers the chance to improve certain leadership skills. Mindfulness not only helps your business, but helps you run it better, too.