Modern business life involves change at an unprecedented pace. Information and pressures constantly need to be dealt with from every angle. The result is a corporation running on empty with people feeling stressed out, exhausted and disengaged.
Most of us are scrambling from one project to the next, trying to operate in the 21st Century with a brain from millennia ago. The software of the brain needs an upgrade.
Corporations around the world are increasingly turning to mindfulness programs in an effort to upgrade their businesses to meet modern day pressures. Mindfulness is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and essentially trains people how to meet the challenges of life.
One of the pioneers of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as
“paying attention in a particular way – on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
This is a valuable skill to cultivate. One of the conclusions from a 2013 Korn Ferry study was a “direct relationship between leader self awareness and organisational financial performance.” There is a growing body of research that demonstrates that introducing mindfulness into a corporation makes it more resilient in competitive environments, increases engagement of employees and reduces absenteeism.
A brain with a mind of its own
However, sometimes under pressure the brain seems to have a mind of its own. No matter how aware we are of the present moment or how much we don’t judge, a whirlwind thrashes around inside our skull. When stressed out an untrained brain shuts the door to rational thinking.
This is an evolutionary reaction to protect the physical body from harm. Imagine 100,000 years ago on the planes of Africa being chased by a tiger. If we stop and think about our reaction we will be eaten. The body evolved to shut the frontal part of the brain down and automatically fight or run.
These days the stress is no longer the tiger but rather a project running overtime, not meeting budget or a difficult meeting. The same physiological process occurs within the body. Dry mouth, sweaty palms, increased blood pressure, shallow breathing and the frontal part of the brain shuts down.
Opening the body door
An innovation to mindfulness programs is to introduce the ‘body door’ when the ‘mind door’ has been shut. This is a more comprehensive approach to health and wellbeing and much more effective. A person who is aware in the moment about what is happening in their body, their emotions, their mind and the surrounding environment is a very skilful leader or employee. What makes them an exceptional leader or employee is to have the tools to manage their physiology, emotions and thinking process effectively.
Training corporations in this way gives them a significant competitive advantage. It is an ancient way for stressed out managers and employees to handle the workload of 21st Century life.
Our physical body and posture is a reflection of our state of mind and our state of mind changes according to how we hold ourselves. Developing Kinaesthetic Intelligence is a missing piece of current mindfulness programs. Incorporating it with mental awareness and Emotional Intelligence is a powerful way to create high performing cultures.
Company culture becomes high performing by the people within it being adaptable in the moment and guided by the company mission. Adaptability is underpinned by mental, emotional and physical self awareness and then self management. Not suppression, not controlling – proactive self management aligned with corporate objectives.
With a well-structured corporate wellness program, these life and business skills equip people to use both mind and body to bring their best performance to their corporate – and personal – life. Yes, we operate in the fast-paced 21st Century corporate environment, but ultimately we are people doing business with people.