I was talking to a neighbor with small children the other day. The latest story was their daughter got frustrated and shouted the f* bomb to her mom (they even recorded it –I love millennial parents :) My neighbor immediately realized her daughter was starting to repeat things, and well, mom drops the f* bomb from time to time. Funny, how kids can throw a spotlight on our less-than-perfect qualities, forcing us to be more mindful of our own words and actions while in front of them.
We have to be mindful of what we say and what we do at work too, especially if we are in a leadership position and need others to follow our example. If we want staff to be on time to work, we should also be on time. When we want to install new rules or processes in the office, we need to ensure we also follow those rules. Want your team to be excited about the next project? You should be as well! Lead by example.
On Monday, the Mindfulness at Work Summit started, so I’ve been watching some of the webcasts each day (along with over 25,000 other people!). Yesterday I watched a great interview with Marvin Riley, the EVP and COO of EnPro, an organization with over 6,500 employees. A fascinating discussion, he spoke about the CEO’s vision for a dual bottom line – one financial and the other in the advancement of his employees, selecting mindful leadership as the way to accomplish that. His bold vision of beginning a mindfulness practice at work was started several years ago, and Marvin was there at its launch and through the cultivation of all 6,500 employees. I sat and listened in awe as he described staff meetings beginning with a mindful silence or meditation, followed by a check-in – not of projects or timelines but of the person coming to the meeting. Are they worried about something? Concerned about family? Excited about something coming up? Marvin explained that you are better able to communicate with those around you if you know where your colleague’s mind is at that moment. He shared that the process started with hours learning about the neuroscience of the brain, leaving your ego at the door and the science behind why mindfulness is important to decision-making. It’s impressive to say the least.
Marvin described various challenges in instituting change across demographics, professions and geographic areas. He explained that many employees are engineers, and thought mindfulness was not scientific, so they worked hard to both understand and the provide scientific information available. With regard to meditation, some employees were weary because they thought the meditation would be a religious experience - and not the religion they practice. What struck me most was when Marvin was asked about his own journey as a leader in the process, and how he could win over others to follow along, he, without question, explained that you “must fundamentally want to do it.” You have to start your own practice, he explained, and think about your why. When you understand your own why, you can more easily share that with others. “The why overcomes the how” and gives you the confidence that it will work. “Light the fire in you first,” he explained, “so you’re speaking from a place of experience and not just from what you read.” I consider this more than just simply leading by example; it’s leading by commitment.