In 1975, I developed my first Corporate Based Mindful Stress Management program. My clients were health care providers at Stanford, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and ultimately every San Francisco based health center staff. Since then I have held senior roles in Learning and Development, Human Resources and Organization Effectiveness designing programs for small, medium and large companies.
What I learned then, and would assert is relevant now, is that any program aimed at improving employee and leader competence in self-awareness/emotional intelligence and social skills must be thoroughly aligned and grounded in organizational goals. Motivations to help staff adapt better to change and stress are commendable but in the long run they are a waste of money if not embedded within an overall strategy that is designed as a change initiative.
If a company trains individuals to be more self-aware, then they are also inviting them to pay attention to the ways in which the environment is, or is not, conducive to the tools and skills they are learning.
We are social beings, we cope with and adapt via cultural cues, norms and rewards. If a company trains individuals to be more self-aware, then they are also inviting them to pay attention to the ways in which the environment is, or is not, conducive to the tools and skills they are learning. Case in point: a coaching client described to me going to a daylong workshop on mindfulness then being accosted and ranted at by their manager “for wasting company time and making everyone have to do double work since they were lounging around at a class.”
If you are a champion for bringing mindfulness in to your firm or team, here are guidelines that will increase impact, make the investment sustainable and give you objective evaluation data to support the ROI.
Guidelines for an Effective Company-wide Change Initiative
- Develop a clear mandate for the impact that Mindfulness has on individuals, teams and organizations by researching and reporting on the outcome studies that are easily found and quoted. There are many studies from sound academic research institutions to use in support of the program.
- Include a third-party researcher on the design team to gather and report on objective outcomes that are meaningful to your company.
- Design with the end in mind. Don’t do a mindfulness program because it is a good idea or it is humane or as a wellness initiative, unless any of these three are integrated completely into a larger purpose that is thought of as an organizational change program.
- Insure that the impact you are designing for is tied directly to important targets and goals of the company. For example, use the mindfulness programs to address the reliability of project team results. There are numerous studies demonstrating that increases in mindfulness across an entire team can improve the reliability of commitments.
- Use Kotter’s 8 step change guidelines to introduce and manage the intention and goals of the program.
- Embed the Mindfulness program in the strategy and vision of the company. Think of your intent as being long term, big picture and highly impactful versus a wellness program that a few people do during their lunch break.
Mindful leaders are the type of leader that Gallup and others describe as caring, developmental and communicative. Mindfulness is proving to have a large impact on employee engagement when programs are designed as a centerpiece of the business strategy.