Andrew McNeill is the co-founder of LxLeaders, a Leadership Consultant, Mindfulness Trainer and Author of Organisational Mindfulness – A How to Guide. In this blog, Andrew discusses the impact of mindfulness and how adopting it into your organisation can help you to gain a competitive edge.
A few scenarios for you to consider.
First scenario, you have a new client coming in to meet your team. A lot is riding on this, the value of the potential contract is high and if you win, you know everyone’s jobs will be safe for the next year and there’s an opportunity for growth. Your team know this and you’re aware that however awesome your team is, nerves can make even confident people look shaky. What might help?
Scenario number two. You have two experts one in communications and one technical. Both have a proven track record and are excellent at what they do, but they frustrate the heck out of each other. You need them to work together, however they see the world very differently and they can’t see how the other one can get things so wrong, all the time. What might help?
Number three scenario, and then I promise I will stop. Your business has to answer a client’s seemingly impossible problem. Despite being bright, the client can’t work it out, so they turn to you for help. You know the extent of the challenge and you have been putting off dealing with it. However, you have to lean in and face it. What might help?
In the scenarios I’ve described very human traits are being exhibited: nervousness, inability to see a different perspective and avoidance. Having a tool kit to help you and your team navigate and influence one’s mind and body can give you the edge that will enable your organisation to out-perform the competition.
Let’s take each one in turn.
- Most, if not all of us, recognise that knot in the stomach, the dry mouth and accelerated breathing that comes when giving a ‘big’ presentation. Has anyone left a meeting with a potential client thinking ‘I knew what I wanted to say…’? Our natural reaction to this sort of situation is known as the Amygdala response, which is the fantastic way our brain and body keeps us safe. For example, the jolt we get when we spot a bus coming towards us just as we are about to cross the road, is that same fight, flight, freeze response in action. The problem is the adrenaline and cortisol release that stops us getting hit by a bus, is the same thing that can make us freeze when giving a big presentation. Mindfulness can help to calm both the body and mind by influencing the body’s reaction to fear, unknotting the stomach and allowing our mind to get into the state we need it to be.
- When we have different views of the world, it can be very hard to see each other’s perspective. I once saw a fantastic illustration of this at a team Away Day. We had all done a Myers Briggs assessment and the facilitator split the room putting all the ‘Intuitives’ in one group and the ‘Thinkers’ in another. He gave both groups the same picture and asked them to describe what they saw. The Thinkers wrote “there is a boat on a river”, “There are three men in the boat” and “There are trees next to the river”. The Intuitives wrote “The wind is howling” and “God is in the sky”. I kid you not, there was nearly a fight! The Thinkers were furious. “What do you mean God is in the sky!!!” It was fascinating and just goes to show how every differently we see things. Having the trained capacity to choose and be able to listen to another perspective as well as being able to navigate ones’ own physiological and psychological response can be a game changer.
- Our final example is in essence “sloth”. My own capacity to avoid the difficult amazes me. Early in my career I was in a job I really didn’t enjoy and I wasn’t very good at it. I could see no way out and I was frustrated by my inability to change my situation. I called a friend and asked if he thought people were naturally apathetic and he laughed. Slightly miffed I asked why? He said: ‘I’m surprised you could be bothered to pick up the phone and ask the question.” When faced with difficult problems that we don’t want to face it is easy to turn away. Having the ability to skilfully place our attention where we want or need it to be can enable us and our teams to deliver where others may struggle.
There are endless scenarios we could explore but the issue is often the same and experienced by all generations across the ages. Essentially, our mind and our body can have their own agenda. The Amygdala response can be brilliant at keeping us safe and out of the way of buses, but it is not what we need before the big gig.
We can see the world very clearly and have essential expertise but, at times, this certainty can prevent us from listening and taking on board a different point of view which could potentially transform a team’s performance. Having the capacity to intentionally place our attention can completely change the way we are able to deliver.
All the desired outcomes I’ve described can be achieved using mindfulness. The effects of mindfulness on wellbeing is well documented and these outcomes are just the start. To help organisations achieve that all important competitive edge what could be more powerful than providing leaders and teams with the foundational skills to influence their own mind and body’s reaction to situations and the capacity to choose how they will respond?
Andrew McNeill is available for consultancy, training and events. To find out more about Andrew, click here.