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Can mindfulness make you a better boss?

by Dr. Jenn Bennett

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Whether you are the CEO of a global company, the partner of a law firm, or the managing director of a small production team, the role of a leader requires a special skill set. A boss is responsible for setting the emotional tone of the team, communicating effectively, and creating a performance environment where the whole team can realize its potential.

These seven steps show how a mindful approach to leadership can help you manage your own internal state so that you can positively impact others and your environment.

Setting the emotional tone

Emotions are contagious in the workplace. As a leader, your emotions can have catastrophic or idyllic effects on the rest of your team. A resonant boss has the ability to maintain a positive tone through managing their own emotion. Even in the midst of chaos leaders can instill a sense of calm and clarity. Research shows that teams perform at their best when leaders project enthusiasm, positive energy, and motivation. It can help to ask yourself, what is the emotional tone of your workplace at its best and under pressure?

Communication

High performing teams rely on strong, quality relationships. For the most part, these are built and maintained with effective communication. Have you ever talked to someone and felt like they were only half-listening? Maybe they were busy sending a text message or writing an email while you spoke. How did that make you feel? Effective communication requires presence and connection on a physical and emotional level. As a leader, awareness of how your actions and communication impacts others and the ability to remain present when you communicate is key to building trust and making others feel valued.

Driving change

Change in the workplace can often be met with resistance. Whether you are trying to change the culture of your organization or the attitudes and behaviors of your team, they need to buy into your vision. Effective leaders are deeply connected with the vision of the organization and communicate to others where they are going and why. Why is change important? How will others personally benefit? Tell the story of your vision with emotion, passion and feeling. Reflect it in your body language and actions, and frame everyday tasks in the context of that vision to help people understand their individual contribution.

Taking control

Have you ever mindlessly sifted through emails on your commute to work, or struggled to remember whether you have already had your morning coffee? The majority of us operate on autopilot for the best part of the day. Sometimes this is not a problem and can free up thinking space when you’re doing mundane tasks. However, it is important to recognize when autopilot is disrupting performance. Cultivating awareness allows you to recognize unhelpful habits and adopt more positive behaviors that promote team performance.

Decision-making

There is an art and science to effective decision-making. Leaders need to develop critical thinking habits that enable conscious thought to guide decisions, and not be led astray by subconscious bias, personal judgment or emotion. By cultivating a sense of awareness you can tune into your emotional state and thinking habits, and create the space and clarity for rational thought. A sense of awareness will also help you stay focused on tasks and attend to vital information that informs your decision.

Resilience

The ability to endure failure, challenges, change, and pressure is fundamental to the survival of great leaders. They have to keep their emotions in check when it feels like the world is against them. Leaders manage uncertainty and meet adversity with optimism and confidence. As a leader, it is important to understand how you respond to these situations, and project positivity in the face of defeat, confidence in times of change, and hope amidst adversity. Being able to anticipate your triggers and manage your response is key to ensuring your team thrives with you.

Making the most of transition time

If you calculated the amount of time you spend each day moving between meetings, venues or conference calls, it’d probably tally up to quite a few minutes. But this time doesn’t have to be wasted; these moments can provide a valuable opportunity to recover your mindset and prepare yourself for the next task. The best thing about developing awareness is that you can practice it anywhere. Make the most of transit time to notice how you’re feeling. Are there any sensations, thoughts, or emotions present? Take the time to focus on your breathing, check in with your emotions, and prepare your mind for your next task.

The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was paid for their writing.

Dr. Jenn Bennett

Dr. Jenn Bennett is a performance psychologist specialized in the mind-body connection. She completed her doctorate in the psychology of performance blocks, and the use of less-conscious methods as treatment. She is an applied practitioner working in elite sport and business. She is also a researcher exploring emotion-based problems affecting the body and mind, and the use of mindfulness for health, wellbeing, and performance.