“As leaders, we are responsible for creating environments in which our colleagues are nurtured and energized, our organizations innovate and flourish, and our communities are respected and supported. It is a complex assignment … Our minds can become distracted by the urgent at the expense of the important and we can become so preoccupied with yesterday and tomorrow that we are no longer able to excel at leading in the present.”
Janice Marturano – Founder and Executive Director, Institute for Mindful Leadership
Almost every day, another high-profile company announces that they’re offering an in-house mindfulness program for employees. Among others, Google, Apple, Heinz, Proctor & Gamble, General Mills, Deutsche Bank, and Intel run mindfulness programs for their staff. Such programs are designed to decrease stress, improve focus and innovation, and promote wellbeing in the workplace.
Developed in large part by former General Mills VP Janice Marturano, mindful leadership involves using mindfulness and mindfulness meditation to cultivate focus, clarity, creativity, and compassion. The Montreal Numinus Clinic is following in the footsteps of Marturano’s Institute for Mindful Leadership by providing corporate mindful leadership training.
Clinic director Dr. Joe Flanders (link) is presently leading a 5-week Mindful Leadership program for unit and department managers at the McGill University Health Centre.
How does mindfulness develop focus, clarity compassion, and creativity–skills identified by Marturano as the core skills of a mindful leader? “Mindfulness means non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness,” explained Dr. Flanders. “When we’re busy and distracted by multiple demands, we tend to bring only partial attention to our work. We’re not fully present. The downside of this habit is that we tend to make snap decisions and not bring our best resources to the task at hand. Mindfulness means cultivating the ability to step out of our busy minds and attend creatively and flexibly to what’s happening in the present moment. It means creating mental space in our busy days, in order to respond rather than react to stressors.”
MUHC managers are no strangers to stress right now. The upcoming move to Montreal’s new “superhospital” involves administrative reshuffling, department restructuring, and a great deal of uncertainty. More than ever, MUHC managers need to be able to focus and problem-solve, and to model presence and equanimity for their staff.
“It’s easy for workplace leaders to listen only half-way, to spend the day inefficiently multi-tasking, to ignore relationships for the sake of the bottom line or the deadline, and to get mindlessly carried away from the present,” says Dr. Flanders.
The goals of the Numinus Mindful Leadership program are to help MUHC managers stay connected with their leadership values and principles, remain present despite constant pulls on their attention, and work creatively with complex and ill-defined problems.
“Practically, speaking this may be as simple as getting managers to stop and take 30 seconds to breathe before a stressful meeting, or to develop an attitude of compassion, for both themselves and their team,” he continued. Dr. Flanders is using a combination of meditation techniques, experiential learning, and group dialogue to help the managers cultivate mindfulness.
Marturano defines mindful leadership training as “fitness for the mind” and Dr. Flanders agrees. “Many employers endorse or even provide physical fitness training for employees, but now more and more employers are attending to employees’ mental fitness via mindfulness programs,” he added.
We expect to see a lot more demand for this type of program.”