How often do you judge your workmates? Be honest.
Managers evaluate employees. It's part of our jobs. We use data, of course -- performance metrics, targets and reviews. But we often start with a quick and informal assessment based on the first things that come to mind about the person.
QUICK ASSESSMENT QUESTIONS
- Worker or whiner?
- Real potential or real procrastinator?
- Thumbs-up or thumbs-down?
This kind of quick judgment can prove useful, but it can also eliminate the opportunity for an employee to show personal development or reveal qualities you didn't know about.
The judging process also limits compassion. A performance target can become more important than the person who's meant to achieve it. When that happens, the work relationship suffers. And when an employee feels he doesn't really matter as a person to management, alienation and under-achieving often become the norm.
You might shrug and say:
What else are we supposed to do? It's a business not a church.
I would reply:
Think about your own performance. Are you getting the best from your colleagues? If there were a better way -- would you give it a try?
You can learn why mindfulness* at work is a bottom-line issue from Aetna's Mark Bertolini.
And then you can learn why it's a management issue from Eckhart Tolle.
In the video, Tolle refers to people who want to help others find consciousness and presence, but I think the strategy can work well in any relationship.
In the work world, these steps are particularly potent because people thirst for managers - and leaders - who recognize them as whole people.
GETTING OUT OF THE WAY
"Whether with one person or with a group of people, the most powerful place is to not know." - Eckhart Tolle
Here are Tolle's steps as I have interpreted them:
- Surrender thoughts and assumptions (Try to release all the pre-scripting we normally we do as managers.)
None of this means that you cease to be decisive and guide your team firmly at appropriate moments. Instead, I see this kind of mindful management as a way to augment your leadership by being more aware of those you work with, by building stronger relationships and therefore a more engaged work force.
YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS IS CONTAGIOUS --
WHAT ARE YOU SPREADING?
What do you bring into your meetings besides your laptop? Is it awareness or negativity? Is it judgment of your colleagues or compassion for them? Is it an open-ended, open-minded question? Or have you written off the meeting before it's begun? How often do you look into people's faces, their eyes? And how often are you texting or checking email even when your colleagues are talking?
If the meeting is so boring or pointless or long without merit, how can you be present so as to change the feel -- even the direction -- of what's happening?
When you manage someone, try asking yourself this question:
Does he or she feel acknowledged and welcome as a human being?
Sometimes we get so busy (or disaffected) that a colleague becomes an obstacle or a tool. In other words, less than a person.
So why not ask them this question directly:
What can I do to make you feel welcome as we work together?
You might be greeted with silence and a bemused expression. Which is okay. Just wait and see what happens. Be comfortable not knowing. If you are genuine in wanting them to feel welcome, that will be a powerful message all on its own.
CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR
When I say ego, I don't just mean a sense of self-importance. I'm talking about the self-centeredness that skews our attention and therefore our take on the people around us.
"Much of the suffering and discomfort we experience at work--and elsewhere--stems from our deeply held views, opinions, and ideas that become lenses through which we perceive the events of our lives."
- Tara Healey of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
This is where mindful management is liberating and empowering.
It allows us to witness and participate in our work relationships as they unfold rather than act from a script in our mind.
It might seem strange, but being present with your co-workers is a wonderful gift. Try it. Look and listen. Acknowledge them and honor the relationship with attention. Acknowledge your intuition as well.
My guess is that you will manage from a calmer and more fulfilling place - and your own work experience will seem less fraught, less reactive and more enjoyable.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally."