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Mindful : February 2015
February 2015 mindful 67 When talking with people at work—particularly those you’re leading—don’t focus too narrowly. Try to be more aware of what surrounds the topic at hand. Talk to the Whole Person There’s a lot of talk about making workplaces more mindful, but what does that really mean? Mindfulness is more than meditation. It’s just as much about how we com- municate with those around us as it is about finding stillness within ourselves. In the workplace, so much of what we accomplish, par ticu- larly as leaders, comes in the form of conversations. And when those conversations can be more mindful, we can develop a kinder, more com- passionate culture, while still maintaining high standards of excellence. We can all think of a conversation or two (or five or 10) that we wouldn’t describe as mindful. But what really makes a conversation mindful? Karen Starns, Head of Adver tising and Media Plan- ning at Amazon, has had a 20-year career in technology, an industry where, after long Signaling that you’re aware of how the person is doing helps you make a more positive connection. hours under tight deadlines, anyone’s mindfulness could go right out the window. For Starns, a mindful conversation is an oppor tunity to open peo- ple up to a broader view and take them to an unexpected place. “Having a mindful con- versation means considering the whole person you’re engag- ing with—not just the project they’re leading, or the deliver- able they owe you.” Signaling that you’re aware of how the work gets done (not just that it gets done) and how the person is doing helps you make a more positive connection. Taking the time to “acknowl- edge an impor tant personal milestone or to offer to juggle workload during a tough time can have an amplifying effect far beyond the situation at hand,” she says. In other companies mindful communication is ingrained in the culture. At Vera Whole Health in 2008, Chief Visionar y Officer Valerie Burlingame set out to build a company that embodies being “present and authentic.” At Vera, they try to help their employees with “par ticularly challenging conversations, when there may be some resis- tance or conflict.” They teach them to search within them- selves and identify their own “stories, feelings, and wants so that we can be responsible and aware of what we are bringing into interactions.” She goes on to say that this practice has helped the company be more effective at resolving conflict, and helped to foster an atmo- sphere of trust in external and internal relationships. For those in leadership roles, a little bit of attention paid to mindful speaking can go a long way. Lisa Hufford, CEO of Simplicity Consulting, has conversations with nearly 100 consultants and clients each month. Her intention for each conversation is to, “Be aware of my own emotions and potential triggers so that I do not let them lead me.” She also encourages her team to, “ Visu- alize what success looks like for the conversation you want to have before you have it.” She feels that this approach not only helps to create a positive culture, it also directly affects the bottom line, because, “Mindful communi- cation allows my team to cut through the clutter and the noise that can permeate orga- nizations. Being clear about intentions helps us get to the hear t of the issues quickly and unifies the group.” Regardless of what industry you’re in, what your company values are, or what type of job you have, ever y one of us can have more mindful conversa- tions at work. For star ters, you need to be clear about your intent at the outset, consider how you want to express it, choose the right time, and pay attention to what’s going on with the person on the other side of the conversation. Sounds obvious and easy, right? But when we’re swim- ming in a sea of busyness, finding time to be intentional about how we enter into conversations can become a low priority. If we’re not careful, we’re practically barking. Try an experiment this month: Make just one work conversation each day a bit more mindful. Set the inten- tion to be present with the person (or people), get clear on your purpose, and remain engaged throughout the whole exchange. It’s possible to build mindfulness at work, one con- versation at a time. ● Jae Ellard is the founder of Simple Intentions and author of its Mindful Life collection of instructional books. at work mindful practices