As an Executive Coach, I hope you enjoy the many thrills and rewards of working with a diverse client portfolio. But of course juggling the objectives and cultural styles of multiple companies is not without its challenges. As well as being required to get to grips quickly with the vision of an organisation, coaches need the ability to observe a company and its staff dispassionately and are often expected to produce effective decision making that will drive the business dynamically forward. All whilst ensuring that the company still meets its financial targets and staff remain motivated and aligned to their goals. On any given day, obstacles such as conflicting personalities, cultural clashes or unwieldy processes may threaten success - and coaches need focus, clarity of thought, empathy and more to navigate through these challenges swiftly and with grace. What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of secular mind training that requires the participant to bring their attention to the present moment. Mindfulness is rapidly becoming the training of choice to improve focus, increase productivity and resilience in the workplace and the affects from this bewitchingly simple practise can be long reaching and profound. Investing in a Mindfulness course can dramatically improve both the service that coaches are able to offer their clients as well leading to physiological and emotional benefits for the individual. We've detailed the top five reasons why Mindfulness training could help transform your skills as an Executive Coach and help you make the move from good to great in the eyes of your clients.
1. Increased Resilience through Stress Reduction
The workplace can be a stressful environment, particularly in difficult economic times as we face anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Executive coaches spend time trying to balance the demands of differing work environments and personalities along with a range of obstacles threatening success such as conflict issues, poor communication styles, or even the fears and procrastination of the client that hired you. A hectic work life spent juggling the needs of your clients along with the demands of a personal life where partner and/or children require your support too can be challenging and often lead to increased stress and overwhelm.
What causes the stress?
You can react to stress by getting stuck into unproductive cycles of negative thinking such as worst case scenario worrying. When you become immersed in our thoughts and worries our body start to think of them as true – and provide the physiological response to match – hence increasing levels of the “stress” hormone cortisol and physical responses such as ezcema and IBS. Mindfulness exercises allows you to calm down and place your attention back to the present moment as well as placing non-judgemental awareness into your body. Meditative practises have been proven to reduce cortisol levels. The increased “feel good factor” of living in a more mindful and present state will also have a positive affect on your clients as your body language, tone of voice and presence will be evident.
2. Heightened Creative Problem-Solving and Attention
Expectations from clients differ. Some require a sounding board they can use to bounce ideas with; other clients seem to want to sit back and let their coach lead them “out of the woods.” Either way, its important coaches are adept at seeing the bigger picture; able to effectively asess and reevaluate the strategic direction of a company and come up with solutions to the problems that it faces. Mindfulness exercise concentrate on bringing attention to the given moment. Increasing awareness and consciousness in the feelings, thoughts and physical sensations of the present allow practitioners to approach problem solving with clarity, spaciouness and creativity. The Institute of Mindful Leadership conducted research that discovered mindfulness exercises helped 93% of leaders make room for innovation and found that 70% said that it assisted them in strategic thinking. Research studies such as those conducted by Ostafin (ref 1) have linked mindfulness exercises to improved insight-based problem solving.
3. Laser-sharp decision-making and focus
Mindfulness exercise encourage us to recognise when our thoughts drift away and require we gently pull them back to the present. In research conducted by David Marchant – a lecturer in Sport Psychology from Edge Hill University – it was found that mindfulness naturally improves concentration and develops “attentional control” which leads to a better command over disparate and distracted thinking and improves our ablity to respond rather than jump into “react” mode thereby improving our decision making faculties and focus.
Paying attention creates a flow state
Paying attention to the present moment helps workers access more readily the “flow state' associated with high performers and sports stars. As you move into the "approach state" your confidence improves which and increases the ability to trust your own decisions. Staying in the present moment allows you to become less distracted by self critical thoughts, less judgemental and aligned to preconceived outcomes and mindsets and more open to noticing and evaluating new data.
4. Boost in Productivity
In a recent piece of research 64% of participants in a workforce study said they were distracted by thoughts of home whilst at work. Mindfulness exercises train practitioners to become consciously aware of these thoughts and bring their attention back to the present moment – the only place where we can truly take effective action. It becomes clear if you can apply this to your daily lives and continue to redirect your attention constantly to the present task at hand your productivity will increase.
When asked to conduct a mindfulness exercise in the workplace and become “aware” of their thoughts and levels of productivity the percentage of participants in the research who saw their thoughts drift to “home” dropped from 64% to 17% which can only be good news for productivity levels.
5. Enhanced Emotional Intelligence
For an Executive Coach developing your attentive listening skills to really hear the story of the organisation and its employees; being able to empathise with your clients and learning how to respond with compassion to the wide variety of people, characters, and business scenarios you are faced with are crucial skills. Mindfulness exercises have been proven to improve both self-compassion and compassion towards other people, improve softer skills such as attentive listening and increase empathy.
Rewire your brain at work
Research shows that our brains have a degree of plasticity which means they can be taught new things. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain imaging shows that practising loving-kindness exercises and developing an emotion such as compassion can be learned in the same way as learning how to play a musical instrument. Brains change for the better and the circuits used to detect emotions were dramatically changed in subjects who had experienced practising compassionate mindfulness.(ref 2)
Mindfulness is one of the leading-edge business approaches, although ancient in origin, and is being used today to improve both the physical and emotional health of staff as well as performance in the workplace. Mindfulness will improve your ability as an executive coach by developing your creative problem-solving skills and allow you to work with more attentiveness, clarity, and empathy – as well as reducing the stress of a busy and demanding life. You will also be able to pass on the benefits of a calmer, more compassionate you to your clients.
If you're interested in becoming a Mindful Executive Coach, join our new 12 month Online Coach Mindful programme.
1) Ostafin BD, Kassman KT (2012). "Stepping out of history: mindfulness improves insight problem solving". Conscious Cognition; vol.21, issue 2.
2) Lutz A, Brefczynski-Lewis J, Johnstone T, Davidson RJ (2008) Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise.
Image courtesy of CC - Victor1558