The professionals in Human Resources have traditionally served as de facto firefighters for their organizations and now their role as pseudo-psychologists seems to be increasing. In our new economic reality, businesses now have more employees whose engagement has been battered due to changes and additions to the responsibilities for which they were hired.
Today, the stress of employed workers is higher than that of the unemployed and oftentimes, as the face of top leadership, HR folks face the brunt of an increasing cohort of burned out and disengaged masses.
The expectation of our HR colleagues is that they put aside their own concerns and disillusionment with their employer (to which they oftentimes have a unique window), paste on a confident smile and reassure everyone that everything is OK. However, when the objective data and anecdotal evidence tell a different story, they end up looking out of touch or, worse, like liars.
The Benefits of Mindful Leadership Skills Training
Mindfulness training teaches leaders the skills to become better partners for their HR colleagues so that several outcomes may be achieved:
- The burden of addressing colleague concerns is spread to all leaders who have been sufficiently trained to do so;
- As these concerns are addressed more efficiently and effectively,
- engagement levels improve, health and absenteeism costs decrease, the rate of presenteeism drops;
- employee job satisfaction improves, driving down turnover costs;
- more time becomes available to HR professionals and others to proactively design and implement creative programs and services for the organization; and
- with healthier and happier employees, productivity, service quality and net income are improved and sustained.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is defined as:
Purposely paying attention to the present moment non-judgmentally.
From an HR and leadership perspective, the goal is to help staff recognize moments of distraction, judgment and worry and train them in methods to refocus on the task at hand.
Our Monkey Minds
Our mind’s default are the mindless monkeys (our thoughts) who scream and swing in an effort to distract us from being fully present for the work in front of us. Our attention is easily pulled away to thinking about events from the past and notions of the future.
Mindful leadership skills include resetting that default through practice so that we become better able to purposely focus on responsibilities of our job roles.
The Five Key Skills
The five key mindful leadership skills that can be introduced into an organization’s culture and practiced by leaders across departments and seniority levels are:
- Taking Accountability – It is much less painful to us when we can put the blame for poor outcomes on someone other than ourselves. However, mindful leaders first ask, “What is my contribution to the problem and what can I do to help solve it?“.
- Growing Patience – As we go through our lives, we can practice recognizing those instances when our impatience shows (e.g., long meetings, sitting in traffic). The simple act of that recognition can, when practiced over time, help us choose better responses to the stress we feel when we’re impatient.
- Active Listening – As leaders, we all can plead guilty to constructing responses to the complaints and concerns of our colleagues before they’ve finished speaking. Recognizing those moments and tuning back in is one of several mindful listening skills that help employees feel more supported while coping with workplace stressors.
- Accepting Failure & Rewarding Risk-Taking – Great organizations lead because they recognize mistakes as learning opportunities and taking risks as an advantage in a more competitive marketplace. Leaders within those organizations create a workplace culture where learning is as important as success.
- Managing Change – Employees like stasis. It allows them to improve over time and be rewarded for that progress. Mindful leaders know how to hire employees and train existing staff who will embrace change as an indicator of staying competitive and not becoming a follower whose existence is more frequently threatened.
These are not skills perfected by reading a blog post or attending a leadership retreat. They demand practice and acceptance of occasional failure. However, those who are able to successfully redefine their minds’ defaults may become the standards by which others in the organization may pattern their own behaviors.
For our HR teams, it is easy to see how a work environment infused with leaders trained in these mindful skills can better collaborate with others to move effectively toward organizational as well as individual goals.
Mindful Follow-Up Questions
- Does the percentage of time that your organization spends on putting out HR fires allow your people-leaders to invest in long range development and implementation of programs and benefits that will aid colleagues in the future?
- Do you sometimes feel like your organization is not progressing like it could if the workplace culture led to greater colleague engagement?
- As an HR professional, do you frequently ask yourself why the reality of your work doesn’t match up well with the vision you had coming out of school?
- Are there opportunities for you and other leaders in your organization to improve on any or all of the key mindful leadership skills discussed above?
- Is your organization’s key leadership open to investing in mindful leadership training for the future success of the team and its members?