Science has shown that, for individuals, the simple practice of bringing attention to the present moment can reduce stress and anxiety, boost working memory, improve focus, decrease emotional reactivity, alleviate depression and lessen pain. If mindfulness helps us to better focus better, ruminate less and communicate more effectively, could it also help an entire group to work more constructively and overcome the dysfunctions that often beleaguer teams? Could it even change the way organizations adapt and transform?
Considering that teams and organizations are a sum of human minds, it stands to reason that the answer is yes. Personal agendas disappear under collective mindfulness; collaboration and innovation thrive. A calmer mind makes a better leader, and calmer minds make more productive teams.
This is why more and more schools are adopting mindfulness programs. From kindergartens to high schools and from England to Massachusetts, educators are finding that mindfulness improves students’ grades and decreases disciplinary problems. Likewise, MBA programs are beginning to add mindfulness to their standard curriculums: NYU’s Stern School of Business, for example, launched a mindfulness program to equip students “with tools to positively impact others while taking a more fulfilling and balanced approach to their work. … The practices not only build students’ skills as future managers and leaders, they also enhance their emotional intelligence and deepen their often-stressful, results-driven lives.”
Beyond schools and into, arguably, one of the most contentious work environments, even staffers, senators and congressmen on Capitol Hill now have the opportunity to practice mindfulness. Rep. Tim Ryan started what’s called Quiet Time Caucus approximately three years ago in an effort to reduce friction and increase productivity in his workplace.
Mindfulness is proving essential to group dynamics everywhere, but the practice hasn’t yet found its way into every office. How can more people and organizations benefit? How can mindfulness infiltrate more meeting rooms and seep into more work interactions? Where do you start?
Unless you’re Google or Ford, not every company has the resources and time to dedicate to mindfulness instruction for each one of its employees. But here at SIYLI, we’ve set out to help individuals bring mindfulness, emotional intelligence and compassionate leadership back to their workplaces.
The program, called Engage, is the first of its kind, focusing on introducing mindfulness to the office via an unusual approach: by creating “change agents”—individuals (leaders, managers, social entrepreneurs, coaches and consultants, and other professionals) who can champion mindfulness in their workplaces after acquiring a multitude of tools during the five-month, experiential program.
There’s great hope in the opportunity to address team dysfunction and move toward collaborative mindfulness. After all, group dynamics are the result of human minds. And, fortunately, the science and practice of mindfulness and emotional intelligence are becoming more accessible to individuals and organizations everywhere.