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GIVING MINDFULNESS A SEAT IN THE BOARDROOM

“The feeling that any task is a nuisance will soon disappear if it is done in mindfulness.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

For years the corporate world has been described as “cut-throat”, “ruthless”, or “highly stressful”. To a lot of professionals, it carries a negative image as the pressures and demands of a successful professional life become increasingly apparent. 

Today, however, more and more companies around the globe are reimagining the workplace as a more creative, supportive, and nurturing environment for employees to thrive in.

That is because Mindfulness has (thankfully!) found its way to the boardroom! And it’s about time, isn’t it? If the board is the main guiding force of an organization, then it seems only fair, if not absolutely necessary, to have a mindful group of leaders under which employees can truly prosper.

How can mindfulness grab a chair in the boardroom?

In the bustle of a busy day, the most important thing to remember is that mindfulness is not meditation, or exercise – but the simple act of being completely present in the current moment.

Creating this focus in the boardroom is important because board members carry the weight of expectations of the entire workforce on their shoulders. The recent pandemic is a case in point. It has shifted the focus of CEOs and boards from profit to physical and mental well-being. Strengthening them with mindfulness habits can help this elite group manage expectations better and perform its role effectively.

To get a better understanding of some of the benefits of mindfulness in the boardroom, a former C-Suite executive helped shed some light on how mindfulness manifests in the boardroom. He shared a fundamental question that helped him determine the mettle of a board member.

“How does a board member behave? Is s/he facilitating or is s/he undermining or demeaning?”

As a board member, if you are mindful of the kind of energy that other board members bring into a boardroom, you are better placed to either change it, or use it to the board’s advantage. When board members are truly mindful, their attitude reflects positivity and fuels productivity in the boardroom.

Interesting techniques to practice Mindfulness in the Boardroom

To gain similar insights, you could try some practical mindfulness techniques that senior professionals follow to build a more mindful culture in the boardroom: 

  • Many board meetings start with a formal welcome and then dive right into the agenda. How about trying something new? Ring a prayer bell, have everyone close their eyes and observe thirty seconds of silence, or take that time to just focus on your breathing before you start the meeting.
  • To be a better listener, and to fully focus on what is being said, mentally count till 10 whenever you have the urge to interrupt a fellow board member. 
  • Try sitting next to the youngest board member or someone who represents diversity and proactively ask for their opinion or inputs. Sharing the same physical space with those who follow a different school of thought can subconsciously communicate a message of inclusivity and acceptance.
  • The next time you realize you’re shutting off because you disagree with the speaker, try this technique – look away from the speaker or close your eyes, and focus your attention only on what is being said rather than who is saying it.  
  • Highlight significant company milestones and customer testimonials and give kudos where necessary. Simple mindfulness in the form of positive reinforcement can go a long way. Often overlooked, this point is especially important to keep in mind when going into a meeting with a challenging agenda. A simple activity like taking the time to snap a quick Polaroid to commemorate key wins, easily translates into a boardroom win.

Remember that mindfulness in the boardroom can be used to not just make a bad environment good, but to make a good environment better. Senior leaders that demonstrate being mindful in a boardroom environment are often credited with transforming the organization’s culture and work mindset. Their decisions are more balanced, they are able to effectively percolate their strategies down to the lower levels, and they believe in ‘carrying’ their employees along as they cross one organizational milestone after another.

Companies that offer mindfulness a seat at the board  can truly become a catalyst for a well-rounded, motivated, and inspired workforce.