It seems clear that we live in an increasingly sick world and organizations. We have really alarming rates of stress and anxiety, as well as consumption of anxiolytics and anti-depressants. What is happening to us?
We spend the day busy and worried , which in essence is not bad, except because of the small detail that, if we spend the day worried and busy, we are not anyway focusing on what is important. How does this relate to stress, anxiety, or even depression?
Do you recognize in your companies, beyond the “marketing” values, values such as individualism, competition, lack of trust, control, imposition, judgment, fear…? What impact does this have on the people?
Because in an effort to pretend, companies launch large CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs, forgetting the most important thing. What do you think it is?
Why have large organizations like Google or Apple been offering Wellbeing programs to their employees for years?
I will answer all these questions throughout the article, and I will explain why I believe that, being organizations the engine of society and where we spend hours and hours of our lives, it is essential and urgent for me to adopt the paradigm of Mindfulness Organizations.
But first, I will give a bit of context on what is Mindfulness and Yogic Philosophy that are my great sources of inspiration.
What is Mindfulness?
For those who are not familiar with the term Mindfulness, it is the applicaiton of Buddhist meditation techniques in occidental world that have their origin approximately 2,500 years ago.
It is believed that its origin was between India and Nepal where Prince Siddharta Gautama, seeing poverty and suffering outside the walls of his palace, decided to abandon his life full of luxury, for a humble life of retirement. This is how he became Buddha, «The illuminated».
Buddha was the father of Buddhist practices where basics are:
• Experiment and be aware of the present moment, the here and now.
• Observe what we think and feel without judgment, whether it seems pleasant (positive) or less pleasant (negative).
• Learn to feel compassion for ourselves and for other living beings.
We can explain this perhaps more clearly if we say that these practices have as their main objective, that we live in the present, observing reality without judging, without being «kidnapped» by what happened to us in the past, or being «tormented» by what that may happen to us in the future, which is basically what generates depression (blaming ourselves for the past), and anxiety (suffering for a negative future that only exists in our mind).
These practices reached us in the West last century thanks to the American doctor Jon Kabat-Zinn, who studied Buddhist meditation in India in the 1960s, and when he returned to the United States, he founded a stress reduction program using these techniques that called Mindfulness. The results were truly spectacular and from there, mindfulness became more relevant to this day.
Being in a mindfulness state means being calm, focused and at peace. Stress and anxiety are reduced and due to the many biochemical effects in the body associated with stress reduction, it leads to a greater state of physical health and mental clarity.
There is a lot of literature on mindfulness, but there is a book that I especially like, which is that of Dr. Mario Alonso Puig but unfortunately it is only in Spanish so I recommend you another very popular written by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
As a summary, in this world of constant change and uncertainty in which we live, where higher percentages of anxiety and stress are increasingly being diagnosed, it seems that doing a few minutes of mindfulness a day can quiet our mind, and become more intelligent people , attentive, efficient, creative, compassionate, happy and fulfilling. That is, it can drive a true Personal Transformation and I attest to it.
What are the Yoga Sutras?
It is also curious to read how back in the second century A.C, the master, yogi and philosopher Patanjali, a relevant person in the yoga history, wrote the «Yoga Sutras», which describes the 8 stages through which a person passes to reach the maximum plenitude and full awareness of him/she. These stages are:
• Yama: Non-violence and respect for life, based on truth, honesty, sincerity with oneself and with others, non-greed and possessions beyond what is necessary.
• Niyama: That focuses more on individual behavior, purifying our senses, being more attentive and compassionate with ourselves, promoting self-study, the faculty of perception.
• Asana: Apply what we have learned to action and always an action harmonized with the body that provides us with physical strength and makes us more aware of the here and now (these are the postures we practice in yoga).
• Pranayama: Harmonizing the action of the body with the breath (with our vital energy), calming physical and mental tensions, which helps to awaken intellectual brilliance.
• Pratyahara: Initiating us on the path to our interior, which illuminates and shows the path of self-realization.
• Dharana: Represents the power of concentration in a focus, firmly holding our wandering mind.
• Dhyana: It allows us to have a deep meditation, losing the notion of time and space.
• Samadhi: It is the state of happiness, mindfulness, self-realization and ilumination.
It always goes from the most external to the most internal, we cannot find plenitude or full consciousness outside, we need to be in harmony with what is outside, but our essence is within us, and the more we act in accordance with our essence, our values and our dreams, we will be more and more happy and full.
Although I have obviously used a super summary of the 8 stages of Pantanjali, allowing me to bring them closer to understanding in our day (forgive me the experts on the subject), there is an immense philosophy behind these «Yoga Sutras». You can explore it in much more detail in specialized blogs or books.
That is, through the path of Yoga we can also find a good tool to quiet our mind and ask ourselves who we really are and how close or far we are from our essence, and mindulness. I can also attest to this!
What are Mindfulness Organizations?
As you have seen, both mindfulness and yoga are two of my great passions, and it is clear to me that everything described by Buda and Pantanjali applies equally to organizations, which are «living beings» as my colleague Raúl Fernández says .
A Mindfulness Organization, I would define as an organization where the values are honesty, respect, transparency, trust, empathy, non-violence, generosity, curiosity and intelligence, which will take us automatically to an organization where creativity, focus, efficiency, reflection and continuous improvement / disruption prevail, while ensuring that each and every person in the organization feels heard, valued, respected, empowered and mindful. Can you imagine it?
And all of the above is not against to business success and profit, an environment like the one I have just defined will achieve more cohesive, focused, creative, efficient and high-performance teams that will work more and better for the benefit of the organization.
After many years managing teams and experiencing different company cultures and leadership styles, I am absolutely convinced that the only way to achieve successful and sustainable organizations, in this uncertain and changing world in which we live, is to approach the paradigm of Mindfulness Organizations.
And when I talk about Mindfulness Organizations I am not referring to yoga and mindfulness classes at work, which by the way seems to me to be a great initiative, I am talking about much more, of the organizational essence of mindfulness. How the vision and mission of the organization includes that mindfulness, how leaders create the appropriate environment so that mindfulness is always present, how people in teams organize and interact, and how it is truly created. mindfulness culture.
And how is this achieved when in most of today’s organizations values such as individualism, competition, lack of trust, control, imposition, judgment, fear, and a long etc. prevail?
In Professor Michael West says that leaders shape the culture of an organization, and he’s right. An organization whose leaders use people to achieve their objectives has nothing to do with another with leaders whose objective is to develop people so that all together they achieve the objectives.
Through the 8 stages of Patanjali, a profound transformation of the person takes place, and from that transformation and new consciousness, new and great things can be generated. How can we pretend that there is organizational transformation without first having a transformation of the leaders of the organization?
How many times have we seen (I have seen a few) how the same leaders who are in the management positions of a “sick” organization, launch great transformation programs that go nowhere?
The great scientist Albert Einstein said that «you cannot solve a problem from the same perspective that created it«. Well, there is no organizational transformation without personal transformation of the leaders first and the rest of the organization later.
That is why, after 20 years and several organizations behind my back, I have the firm belief that the key to all this lies in the leaders, who have to generate the appropriate organizational space, to allow these transformations to take place, because that is which will really allow organizations to evolve towards Mindfulness Organizations.
And how do I think we have to progress? Obviously, this has no magic formula, it is a long and progressive process working on 5 prioritized pillars as follows:
• Mindfulness Leaders. Without the transformation of leaders to Mindfulness Leaders, sorry, but there is nothing to do.
• Mindfulness Culture. As leaders become more mindful, the true values and essence of Mindfulness Culture will be forged.
• Mindfulness Way of Working. Avoiding that the procedures and the day-to-day of the organization are a wear and tear, and become allies.
• Mindfulness Teams. Understanding how the day of teams is shaped so that they also evolve to Mindfulness Teams.
• Mindfulness Vision and Mission. When we have covered the above, the vision and mission of the organization will change, but this change will be the last, if we start here, we will only achieve a Marketing Mindfulness Vision and Mission.
Surely, if you have come this far, you will have found the answer to the questions that were left open in the introduction
What is happening to us?
Well, something as simple as forgetting who we are, what we need, what moves us as human being, and if what we do day by day revitalizes or wears us out. We have underestimated the importance of our values as the essence of who we are, and what really makes our talent and well-being grow. And we will only find this if we stop our mental noise and give ourselves permission to rediscover ourselves.
How is being «preoccupied and busy» related to stress, anxiety, or even depression?
If we live without knowing who we are, if we are worried and busy all day, if we are not able to calm our mind, and stop being kidnapped by the past or tormented by the future, the chances of suffering, stress, anxiety or depression, will increase. significantly.
What impact do individualistic and competence values have on people?
Well, a totally destructive impact, values that go totally against who we are as humans and social beings, who do not understand that 1 + 1 = 2, leads people to bring out the worst in them, out of sheer need for survival.
Instead of creating a safe environment where people grow up, we are creating an unsafe environment where we need to be on constant alert because we feel in constant danger … from there to chronic stress (or distress) it only takes a small step.
What should be the most important thing about CSR?
Well, something as simple as treating employees with honesty, respect, transparency, trust, empathy, gratitude … caring for them and their personal and professional growth.
Why have large organizations like Google or Apple been offering Wellbeing programs to their employees for years?
Well, for something as simple as that they have realized that, if their employees feel better, they are more creative, efficient, motivated and more involved.
Why do new organizational and leadership paradigms appear, such as Frederic Laloux’s Teal organizations or the principles of Management 3.0?
Because the totally disruptive changes that we are experiencing between the third and fourth industrial revolutions are taking us to the abyss as human beings.
Fortunately, many people have been realizing for years that we cannot continue like this, that on top of everything we are all unique, valuable, important beings, who have a mission to fulfill, and the further we move away from that, the closer we will be to anxiety, stress, depression, unhappiness and lack of fulfillment.
As sure you need to settle all this before continuing, I leave the detailed explanation of the 5 pillars for future articles because there is a lot to talk about…
I hope you enjoyed it and have generated some curiosity to continue understanding more about Mindfulness Organizations from my perspective!!!