Has it ever happened to you that you were in an organization doing something that you were passionate about and filled of energy? And have you seen yourself in other circumstances that you have wanted to run away? I have to say yes to both, several times.
We will see throughout this article the reasons why this can happen, which are related, in most cases, to the elements of Enterprise Culture.
We will take a look to the elements of a business culture, to stop and focus on what is different about a Mindfulness Culture.
The traditional definition of enterprise culture is that set of norms, values, beliefs, habits and thoughts shared by the members of an organization. They are the written and unwritten rules that shape people’s behavior, for good and for less good, it is where the typical phrases of «because it has always been done like this», … «because of everyone knows it» … etc.
I suppose you have also observed (those who have been in), that if you are in a large organization, different cultures can coexist depending on the department, direction or work team in which you are, and this is mainly for one reason, the leader of the area. No matter the culture that is announced from the management, the team leaders will be the ones who will really shape the culture of that team.
That is why I always remember that you have to focus on leadership, it is the key to everything, but as we are already dealing with this in another thread of articles (Mindfulness Leader) I will not elaborate here, but it must being always present in any strategy of cultural or organizational change, leaders shape the corporate culture, therefore, it is a priority to ensure that we have Mindfulness Leaders.
In most of the organizations that I know (and people), you live with the automatic pilot on, and this is just the opposite of a Mindfulness Culture, where concepts that will already sound familiar to you from previous articles appear, such as being present, focused, positive, calm, empathetic, grateful … Mindfulness Culture drastically reduces stress and conflicts, making everyone’s day to day simpler, mindful and more efficient, which will lead us to more productive, creative and successful organizations.
Has it ever happened to you that on Sundays you sleep worse than the rest of the days of the week and that sometimes you even get anxious around mid-afternoon on Sunday?
When we are in an organization or team where we work with a clear purpose and objectives, in a healthy, honest and balanced way, when our opinion is taken into cosideration even in the most complicated moments and we feel valued, listened to and rewarded, it is like being in love, it generates the same hormones of happiness and fulfillment.
However, when we are doing something that is not adding value to us, in a hostile environment, where we are not listened to, valued or recognized, where every day is a battle for survival … other less grateful substances arrive such as cortisol that overshadow our lives and our lives perception.
What a huge impact the culture of an organization has on us and we don’t even realize it. It is a cause of happiness and plenitude but also of stress, anxiety and frustration.
In the last years, many Mindfulness initiatives have been launched in multiple organizations (for example BBVA) and investigations of the impact of mindfulness in organizations, but there is still much to do.
What is clear is that in medical studies, which have been carried out for decades, such as those of John Kabat-Zinn, on the impact of Mindfulness on physical and mental health, the results are more than conclusive, and it seems to extend this to a business environment can be beneficial.
If everything seems so obvious, why don’t we finish figuring out how to do it? I hope that throughout the article you understand that the complexity of an organization is much greater than an individual and that Mindfulness is about people, not about objectives, results, methodologies, plans and strategies … and here, once again, the role of Mindfulness Leaders in organizations is fundamental.
Let’s remember again the 5 pillars of Mindfulness Organizations to have the complete picture, although in this article we are only going to focus on the second pillar, which is Mindfulness Culture.
What is a Mindfulness Culture?
A Mindfulness Culture is one that makes it easier for the members of the organization to navigate from its purpose to the smallest daily task in a conscious, focused and creative way, through conscious interactions with other people in the organization and / or clients or third parties.
As we saw in another previous article, Mindfulness Organizations are those where the values are honesty, respect, transparency, trust, empathy, non-violence, generosity, curiosity and intelligence, which will automatically lead us to an organization where teamwork, creativity, focus, efficiency, reflection as well as continuous improvement and disruption prevail, while ensuring that each and every person in the organization feels heard, valued , respected, empowered as well as guided and mentored in their growth.
In order to explain in more detail the role of Corporate Culture in Mindfulness Organizations, we will start by identifying the elements that compose it and the vision of each element from a Mindfulness Culture perspective.
Depending on the source you consult, different elements will appear as part of the corporate culture, I like Gustavo Razzetti’s vision, but it is a bit extensive for an article, so I will focus on the elements that are most key to me and differentials in a Mindfulness Culture, in order to better explain the general concept and we will be able to go into detail in future articles.
Gustavo Razzetti says that it is always good to have a phrase that represents your company culture, and I agree, it is part of your identity and as a message to attract talent aligned with that culture. He gives as examples Netflix that has a culture of freedom and responsibility and Airbnb that has a culture in which everyone feels they belong anywhere.
Of course, it has to be true. If we promise one thing and then people meet another … the deception will be short-lived.
As I said before, culture is our identity in the world, it should be one of our competitive advantages and a fundamental axis of our strategy and business success.
The elements of a Mindfulness Culture are the ones you see in the image:
Every organization must have a purpose, and I do not mean to make money, this is a consequence that we are working on our purpose by offering our clients products and / or services that solve their needs better than others. Without purpose, there is no vision, strategy, goals, or team cohesion.
And I do not mean that anything is worth it, obviously an organization must have revenues to survive and fulfill its purpose, the question is from which perspective it is approached, from the human or from the dehumanized one.
Purpose is what moves people, it is the soul of an organization, it is not material, but it is the common thread of everything that is done. If we have purposes such as being the number 1 company in XXX this is not a Mindfulness purpose.
An example of purpose that I love is La Xanceda Ecological Farm, which says: “Ecological products from very, very happy cows. We take loving care of our cows, we fight for nature and we defend the rural world”.
The purpose has as elements:
- Our reason for existing, what I offer to the world.
- It is inspirational for employees and our clients.
- It is concrete, avoiding empty words like «excellence in …», «the best for …», etc.
- It is challenging, but achievable.
The purpose is related to the mission and vision that you have seen many times, to make a very short summary of the 3 concepts, I summarize them here:
- Purpose is our reason for existing and it is permanent, it does not change.
- Mission is what you are going to do in a period of time to get closer to your purpose (5- 10 years).
- Vision is how you imagine the world, your clients and your organization if you achieve your purpose.
It is important that every person in the organization knows and believes in the purpose and that they feel that they are part of something much bigger than themselves and that at the same time they can help that purpose be fulfilled. All the organizations that Frederic Laloux presents in his book Reinventing Organizations have a clear purpose that makes the members of the organization give meaning to their day to day.
And last but not least, the purpose must be challenging but achievable, no one is going to feel part of something that is a chimera.
Values will shape the way for us to reach our purpose, it is not worth doing it in any way if we want to be part of a Mindfulness Culture, if we achieve our purpose but the members of the company have high levels of stress, anxiety and frustration, we will fail.
The social impact of an organization is not only in what it offers to its clients or in the CSR projects it does, but also in how it treats its employees and how happy, healthy, motivated and full they are.
We must also flee from the marketing values that I have seen so much in organizations, values are not something that the MC (Management Committee) invents, it must be agreed with employees, values must be something real in which everyone believes . Values are not imposed, they are identified and worked on.
It is also important to identify the values that are most aligned with the purpose and are most key to being successful, those are the ones that all employees must be aligned with and be reflected with. For example, if we use the Xanceda example, they have as values:
•Respect for the environment
• Respect for animals
• Respect for the rural
And then there will be other values that will be our behavior guides such as: honesty, respect, transparency, trust, empathy, non-violence, generosity, curiosity and intelligence, which for me are the basis of all Mindfulness Culture and Mindfulness Organization regardless of the type of organization and purpose you have.
Norms & Beliefs & Habits
Mahatma Gandhi said that:
«Your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny. «
What great wisdom is behind these words, and how difficult it is to break this circle if the starting point, which is beliefs, are not positive for us. If we add the component of rule or procedure in an organization, we already have it. In addition, beliefs are passed from parents to children, from bosses to employees, from colleagues to colleagues, and we can only break it if we become aware and understand how limiting many beliefs and norms can be.
The rules and procedures should be a guide to make our work easier, not to make it hell. Habits should help us to be more effective, non-destructive, and limiting beliefs should be identified and transformed.
As a general rule, we are not present or mindful when we act based on norms, beliefs or habits, but if we apply the concept of Mindfulness, everything changes, we become fully aware and we begin to question whether all those norms, beliefs and habits help to have a focused, efficient and full organization or the opposite.
The application of agile and lean frameworks can be an interesting tool, which help us prioritize, focus and make retrospectives of the things that work and those that do not, with what are perfect moments to rethink norms, beliefs and habits.
If you are in the typical organization in which conflicts or problems are solved based on putting more rules, procedures and governance, instead of adopting a Mindfulness perspective and making conscious changes, you are far away from having a Mindfulness Culture.
You have to be present and aware so as not to get into the dynamics of making the rules or procedures more complex than doing your own work. This frustrates and stresses people, which is just the opposite of what is intended in a Mindfulness Organization.
Communication has always been the pending issue in any organization, and that is because we always think about a cascade communication, from the CEO to the employees, regardless of what the receiver expects and forgetting that communication is 360º.
In a Mindfulness Culture, communication must be approached from that 360º perspective. A Midnfulness Leader is concerned that her/his team has all the necessary information to make the work, on the other hand, it will make them to feel part of the purpose of the organization and what happens in it. In addition, each person on the team is important to communicate their expectations, needs and ideas, so that they can be understood and fulfilled / valued. They cannot be expected to guess our thoughts, we are complex beings.
Something that radically changes in a Mindfulness Culture is how decisions are made, going from a hierarchical model to a conscious model where it is important to ensure that:
• Decisions that will impact a person or team should be consulted with them.
• Both in good times and in times of greatest crisis it is important to involve people in decision-making, this will make them feel even more part of the organization.
• Management Committe is responsible to set the purpose, vision, mission and strategy, as well as to facilitate everything that is necessary to achieve it. However, the implementation of the strategy must be based on decisions made by the teams that have to implement it.
• It is important to be clear about the decision delegation matrix so that there is no doubt about who has to make what decisions and the decision-making model. For example, in some of the organizations that you can read in Laloux’s book, they implement the advisory decision-making model (which is not consensus).
I have seen many good strategies fail in my work life because the implementation was not adequate.
Does it sound to you being in an organization where it is said with great enphasis that employees are the most important and the center of everything, and then it turns out that decisions are made that radically affect them without agreeing anything with them? Teams that are destroyed because there is another cheaper supplier… Any decision in a context can be valid, but you have to make decisions consistent with your purpose and values, if not, or you change your purpose and values or you change your leaders.
Feedback and Reward
Feedback and Reward, like the rest of the elements of a Mindfulness Culture, has to be aligned with the purpose and values.
I have been working for 20 years in organizations that follow the typical Performance Management process that requires having 2 feedback meetings a year and employee evaluation. If you are in these, I am afraid it is the opposite of a Mindfulness Culture.
Feedback must be continuous and 360º (not only from manager to employee), it must also be given at the right time and in the right way. A feedback with the best intention in the badly given, is totally unproductive, and I tell you this from my experience.
And the reward, first we must make sure that it is offered consistently in all teams, and second, it must be associated with the results of the work aligned with the purpose and objectives, it must not be a personal and subjective evaluation of a manager. It is about being able to tell the employee how much he / she contributes to achieving those objectives and purpose and reward them. And the reward doesn’t have to be something you do once a year.
With traditional feedback and reward models, we experience it as an exam and extra pay, not as a conscious moment of how much I feel identified with the purpose and objectives of the organization and how I have been able to add value to them.
I hope that all this that I have told you has contributed something to you on the way to a Mindfulness Culture. I await your comments and feedback, because everyone lives it differently, and all the perspective can add a lot of value.