Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to Use Mindfulness in Leadership

Meditation – or mindfulness – is seen by some as the latest new-age fad where people sit around on the floor humming with incense burning nearby. It’s not often considered a top business practice at highly competitive companies.
But some of the nation’s largest employers are embracing mindfulness as a way to ease the stress of a workday for employees, improve leadership and hopefully lead to happier and more productive workplaces.
One of those employers is General Mills, one of the world’s largest food companies, which supports employees as they pursue mindfulness.
Sandy Behnken, corporate continuous improvement leader at General Mills, recently shared her experience with Anita Bruzzese in this closer look at mindfulness and leadership.
AB: How did you come to use mindfulness at work?
 SB:  I learned about mindfulness in September 2009 when considering development opportunities for the Women in IT networking group I was involved in at General Mills. At that time, several leaders at General Mills had received mindful leadership training. One leader in particular inspired me to learn more because I noticed how he always seemed to deeply listen when others spoke and then responded versus reacted to what was said. I wanted to be less reactive and to be a better listener.
With the support and sponsorship of leadership, I coordinated a group of 25 IT leaders to participate in a seven-week mindful leadership course. Within a couple of weeks of the course starting I could see how my mindfulness practice impacted my interactions at work. I became more aware of the many stimuli impacting me and was better able to decide how I was going to respond versus react to them.
AB: How long have you been using it?
 SB: I’ve been practicing mindfulness for the past 4 ½ years. To help strengthen my practice and support other practitioners at work, I lead a weekly drop-in practice session for General Mills employees. 
AB: Can you describe a work situation you felt like using mindfulness made a difference?
 SB: During a time in which I managed a large project for the company, having a strong mindfulness practice helped me when stress levels were high and we had more questions than answers. It helped me create the mental space I needed to bring clarity and focused attention to the work my team and I needed to accomplish. This mental space also allowed room for creativity to find answers to all those questions.
AB: How to you think mindfulness has made a difference in your leadership?
 SB: I believe the biggest difference it has made is in my ability to deeply listen to what is being said. Whether it’s working through business plans or addressing personnel challenges the act of really listening and being open to what is being said has been invaluable.
It’s so easy to come into a conversation with preconceived notions about how to proceed forward that we can miss important insights. It’s equally easy to want to solve all the challenges that are presented when the best thing may be to listen without thinking about how (read the rest here)

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