APA Center for Organizational Excellence: Good Company

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Join Kyra Cavanaugh, president of When Life Meets Work, for the pre-conference training session at our 2014 Work & Well-Being Conference in Chicago.

Thursday, September 11, 2014
8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

The Westin O'Hare
Chicago, IL

In this era of overwork, with client demands, shrinking margins and changing technology, businesses have increasingly focused on individual performance and 24/7 availability.

Focus on individual productivity is not sustainable long term. It’s time to reinvest in the power of team. This session will show you how encouraging conversation around six aspects of “team life” with your team will improve client service and help you retain your best talent. With a special emphasis on improving the flexibility, collaboration, resilience and communication practices of your team, you’ll walk away with a roadmap for delivering value to clients while meeting employee needs.

This session will help you:

  • Improve communication and connection in dispersed teams
  • Enhance individual and organizational resilience
  • Reduce stress, overwork and disengagement
  • Increase internal mobility across departments and office locations

For more information about the conference, or to register online, click here.

About the Presenter

Kyra Cavanaugh serves as President of Life Meets Work, where she has helped hundreds of companies think differently about how work gets done. She works with organizations of all types to incorporate innovative workforce practices into their day-to-day operations. She specializes in helping organizations prepare for the future of work through consulting, training, speaking and coaching services. Life Meets Work clients have included Deloitte, CenturyLink, Toyota Financial Services, WellStar Health System, Turner and Astellas.

Kyra authored the book Who Works Where [and Who Cares?], a hands-on book that shows managers how to boost collaboration and performance even when their teams don’t work together in the same time or space (2014). She is a key advisor to the Families and Work/SHRM partnership to drive awareness and support for workflex as a business imperative. She’s a nationally-recognized speaker, blogger and commentator on workforce issues and the recipient of the 2011 Work-Life Rising Star Award by Alliance for Work-Life Progress. Her expertise has made her a go-to media resource for publications such as Crain’s, Chicago Tribune, Market Watch and Working Mother Media.

managers suck

In many organizations, the role of the manager takes on a great deal of importance. After all, managers are expected to achieve results for their departments or work units. They receive credit when the department does well, and they take the blame (and sometimes rationalize it away) when the department does poorly.

Folks from Gallup recently posted a blog entry on the HBR Blog Network to explain the “traits” that differentiate great managers from the not-so-great managers. The five traits discussed involve ability to motivate others, assertiveness, culture (of accountability), relationship building and productivity-based decisions (as opposed to political decisions). Furthermore, according to Gallup, only 1 in 10 managers possess all of these “traits.” Apparently, most managers just plain and simply suck at their jobs, right? And if only organizations would do a better job of selecting managers, we could have more great managers.

However, there are some serious flaws with the assertions:

  1. Traits” are defined as “Enduring personal qualities or attributes that influence behavior across situations.” Most of the “traits” listed by Gallup are actually behaviors or outcomes (with the exception of assertiveness).
  2. Good leaders do not motivate others, but instead create an environment where employees can find intrinsic motivation. After all, intrinsic motivation, not extrinsic motivation, is the precursor for engagement. So, no matter how motivating a manager may be and no matter how assertive that manager is, if the people doing the work are not intrinsically motivated to perform that work, performance will not be optimized.
  3. While leaders can influence and build cultures, cultures can also influence and build leaders. Just ask the preeminent culture expert, Edgar Schein. Most managers do not create the culture of their department or unit. Instead, they typically behave in ways that are consistent with the established norms of the department/unit and the organization.
  4. Many managers fail because they lack the competencies necessary to manage the stress of their new role. Johnston and Lee found that within two years of a promotion, most managers’ well-being deteriorates. Hence, while some people may have some innate talents that might make them effective managers, most people still need training and developmental experiences to prepare them for the new demands they will face. This goes beyond just a matter of selection.
  5. Manager effectiveness exists along a continuum, and most managers probably actually fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I’ve never read a study that suggests that 90 percent of managers are horrible at their jobs, while the other 10 percent are great at theirs. However, this article seems to suggest just that. “Very few people are able to pull off all five of the requirements of good management. Most managers end up with team members who are at best indifferent toward their work — or are at worst hell-bent on spreading their negativity to colleagues and customers.” Hence, the implied conclusion here is that if the manager is not great at all five of the supposed traits, then workers will become negative and disengaged. That seems like an awfully long leap to me, and one not at all supported by a single empirical study I’ve ever seen.

In the end, the blog post proposes a variety of conclusions and assumptions that are really not scientifically established. The fact is that there is no one best type of manager. Each context, each situation, each organization and each work unit is different. I find it difficult to believe that we would ever conclude that what it takes to manage, for example, soldiers within the U.S. army would be the exact same sets of traits and behaviors that it takes to lead a team of synchronized swimmers. I’m pretty sure that someone like the late General George S. Patton, Jr., would have been horrible at leading a team of synchronized swimmers, but his behaviors and tactics led to some very effective management given his time and context.

The truth is, there isn’t going to be a magical set of factors that predict effectiveness in every context. Almost every contemporary theory regarding leadership and management emphasizes the importance of the fit between a leader/manager and his or her environment. Hence, to assume that we can boil down great managers to a list of five supposed traits harkens back to the early days of leadership theories – the great person theories – which have largely been pushed aside by more valid perspectives.

Photo Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Suljo

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On Wednesday, July 2, 2014 the Arkansas Psychological Association will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness of the impact of discrimination in the workplace on those groups named in the 1964 Civil Rights Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2nd.

A committee appointed by the Arkansas Psychological Association Board reviewed the effect of discrimination in the workplace on race, ethnicity/nationality, gender, sexual orientation and religion supported by scientifically-based psychological studies. A public statement has been prepared that summarizes the effect of workplace discrimination on disenfranchised groups and will be read during the event. This statement also addresses the resolve of the Arkansas Psychological Association to work to create a healthy workplace environment for all populations.

Dr. Gwen Keita, Executive Director of the Public Interest Directorate and Dr. David Ballard, Assistant Executive Director for Organizational Excellence will present on the work of the American Psychological Association regarding this initiative. APA has specifically dedicated efforts and program towards fostering employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance. A number of Arkansas companies have received awards over the past decade through APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award Program, recognizing their workplace practices.

The commemoration will also honor icons of civil rights advocacy from this community. Awards will be presented to Dr. Terrence Roberts, psychologist, and one of the Little Rock Nine and Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams Ledbetter, posthumously, for her work through the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. The event is free and open to the public with a reception to follow the program.

The event will be held at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, 9th and Broadway in Little Rock from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Click here to RSVP for the event.

The event is sponsored by the Office of Governor Mike Beebe, the City of Little Rock, Central High Historic Site, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Philander Smith College - Social Justice Initiative and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock - Institute on Race and Ethnicity.

Source: Arkansas Psychological Association

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If you are a student interested in healthy workplace issues, consider working with APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence on our 2014 Work & Well-Being conference in Chicago at the Westin O'Hare on September 11-12. Students from all disciplines, especially industrial-organizational psychology graduate students, psychology undergraduates, students studying business, HR, nursing, medicine and more will find value in working with us on this engaging conference.

Our Work & Well-Being student volunteers have come away from our conferences with new connections, presented their research in front of future employers, published their writing through our communication channels and more. Below is a list of opportunities for students – see which one is right for you…

STAFF THE CONFERENCE

If you like to network, consider volunteering your time to staff our conference sessions where you will be responsible for conference registration, handing out name tags, distributing handouts, answering questions from participants about the schedule and sitting in on sessions to make sure they run smoothly. We will work with you to find hours that fit your schedule. Each conference is different, but typically our volunteers work 3-6 hours over two days.

PRESENT YOUR RESEARCH

We invite graduate students with research on psychologically healthy workplace topics to submit proposals for presentations at the conference. These will be brief (ten minute) presentations that will be part of a special conference session. Topics can include, but are not limited to: workplace wellness and health promotion, employee involvement, work-life balance and flexibility, employee learning and development, occupational health and safety, job stress, diversity, industrial-organizational psychology, occupational health psychology, management and employee recognition.

Guidelines for Presentation Proposals

  • Proposal must be submitted via email no later than June 27, 2014
  • Proposal must be in Microsoft Word, follow APA format and be no longer than 300 words
  • Please include the presentation title, statement of problem, study design, sample size and composition, measures used, analysis method, results and conclusions
  • Also include a one-page bio with the presenter’s credentials, academic affiliation, education, research and work experience, statement of career goals, mailing address, email and phone number

Presentations will be selected and students will be notified by July 15, 2014.

WRITE FOR US

If you are an experienced writer and interested in covering the conference, please consider writing a newsletter article or blog post. We will work with you ahead of the conference to go over your topic and discuss interviewing our presenters. In general, our articles and blog posts should follow these guidelines:

  • 500-800 words 
  • Tone and style blend psychology and business writing
  • Use headings breaks, short paragraphs and clear/concise language 
  • Provide links, bibliographic information, and primary sources for any and all cited content – we need to be able to access exactly what you’re citing 

Suggested perspectives and other tips:

  • Connect presentations to the categories of psychologically healthy workplace practices (employee recognition, employee involvement, health and safety, employee growth and development, and work-life balance)
  • Discuss sessions as they relate to key issues of employee well-being, productivity, communication, organizational outcomes
  • Comment on related economic trends and workplace conditions
  • Read past issues of the Good Company newsletter
  • Access blog posts

The deadline for submitting articles/blog posts is September 30, 2014.

TWEET ABOUT THE CONFERENCE

For those of you who are active on Twitter and interested in tweeting from the conference, please send us your Twitter handle so we can determine if it would be mutually beneficial for us to work together this way during the conference. You can check out our 2013 Chicago conference tweets here. Check us out on Twitter, where we post as @APA_excellence. We are also on LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest and more if you are social media savvy – so pitch us your creative ideas soon so we can formulate a plan ahead of time.

PHOTOGRAPH THE EVENT

If you are an experienced or skilled amateur photographer with your own equipment and interested in taking photos during the conference and would be willing to release the photos to us, we would love to have your help. Send us a link to your portfolio or flickr page so we can take a peek before signing you up!

BENEFITS FOR STUDENT VOLUNTEERS

In exchange for volunteering for our conference, we will waive your conference registration fee ($399 value) and you will be able to attend the main conference sessions you are not scheduled to work for free. You will be fully responsible for your travel, hotel stay and miscellaneous costs, like parking, cab fare, although some food and beverages will be provided.

NEXT STEPS

If you are a current student and interested in working with us on our Chicago conference, please review the opportunities listed above and email us with your name, email address, cell phone number, school name, program/degree expected, date of expected graduation and a commitment to the conference time frame (September 11-12, 2014) and clearly state which opportunities you are interested in and why you are qualified. Once we receive this information from you, we will forward a registration form that must be returned to us in order for you to volunteer. If at any time your availability changes, please let us know ASAP so we may offer your spot to those on the waiting list. Please note that you must be a student to volunteer with us.

The American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence works to enhance the functioning of individuals, groups, organizations and communities through the application of psychology to a broad range of workplace issues. To learn more, please visit: apaexcellence.org.

Additional information about the conference is available online here. If you have any questions, please call our office at 202.336.5900 or email us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/--mike-- / CC BY 2.0

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Don't miss the chance to present your work at the 11th International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health.

May 6-9, 2015 at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology (SOHP).

The Call for Proposals (including online submissions) is available now, and can be found at the official conference website.

Submission deadline: October 6, 2014.

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If you are a student interested in healthy workplace issues, consider working with APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence on our 2014 Work & Well-Being event in Washington, DC at the APA Headquarters on May 30. Students from all disciplines, especially industrial-organizational psychology graduate students, psychology undergraduates, students studying business, HR, nursing, medicine and more will find value in working with us on this engaging event.

Our Work & Well-Being student volunteers have come away from our events with new connections, presented their research in front of future employers, published their writing through our communication channels and more. Below is a list of opportunities for students – see which one is right for you…

STAFF THE EVENT

If you like to network, consider volunteering your time to staff our sessions where you will be responsible for registration, handing out name tags, distributing handouts, answering questions from participants about the schedule and sitting in on sessions to make sure they run smoothly. We will work with you to find hours that fit your schedule.

WRITE FOR US

If you are an experienced writer and interested in covering the event, please consider writing a newsletter article or blog post. We will work with you ahead of time to go over your topic and discuss interviewing our presenters. In general, our articles and blog posts should follow these guidelines:

  • 500-800 words 
  • Tone and style blend psychology and business writing
  • Use headings breaks, short paragraphs and clear/concise language 
  • Provide links, bibliographic information, and primary sources for any and all cited content – we need to be able to access exactly what you’re citing 

Suggested perspectives and other tips:

  • Connect presentations to the categories of psychologically healthy workplace practices (employee recognition, employee involvement, health and safety, employee growth and development, and work-life balance)
  • Discuss sessions as they relate to key issues of employee well-being, productivity, communication, organizational outcomes
  • Comment on related economic trends and workplace conditions
  • Read past issues of the Good Company newsletter
  • Access blog posts

The deadline for submitting articles/blog posts is June 13, 2014.

TWEET ABOUT THE EVENT

For those of you who are active on Twitter and interested in tweeting from the event, please send us your Twitter handle so we can determine if it would be mutually beneficial for us to work together this way during the event. Check us out on Twitter, where we post as @APA_excellence. We are also on LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest and more if you are social media savvy – so pitch us your creative ideas soon so we can formulate a plan ahead of time.

BENEFITS FOR STUDENT VOLUNTEERS

In exchange for volunteering for our event, we will waive your registration fee ($299) and you will be able to attend the sessions you are not scheduled to work for free. You will be fully responsible for any travel, hotel stay and miscellaneous costs, like parking, cab fare, although some food and beverages will be provided.

NEXT STEPS

If you are a current student and interested in working with us on our Washington, DC event, please review the opportunities listed above and email us with your name, email address, cell phone number, school name, program/degree expected, date of expected graduation and a commitment to the conference time frame (May 30, 2014) and clearly state which opportunities you are interested in and why you are qualified. Once we receive this information from you, we will forward a registration form that must be returned to us in order for you to volunteer. If at any time your availability changes, please let us know ASAP so we may offer your spot to those on the waiting list. Please note that you must be a student to volunteer with us.

The American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence works to enhance the functioning of individuals, groups, organizations and communities through the application of psychology to a broad range of workplace issues. To learn more, please visit: apaexcellence.org.

Additional information about the event is available online here. If you have any questions, please call our office at 202.336.5900 or email us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/photophiend / CC BY-NV-ND 2.0

To hear more about people's experiences at work, we hit the streets for a continuation of the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program's interview series. This time, we focused on work-life balance.

Do you think you have good work-life balance in your current job? What is your average work day like? Do you use all of your vacation days? What tips do you have for juggling your work and non-work demands?

For more resources on work-life balance, check out our reading list.

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Flexibility in the how, when and where employees work is not just a perk for working parents – it’s smart business strategy. However, having a policy that allows employees to work remotely doesn’t always incorporate training for managers who may not know how to manage employees virtually.

How is managing employees remotely different than when they are in the office?

How do you navigate the dizzying array of tools and communication technology programs available?

How do you hold employees accountable for their work if they aren’t actually in the office?

What best practices and guidelines exist outside your organization that you could use?

These are just a few questions managers may have when their inclination is to support employees working remotely, but they may not necessarily have the skill set required to manage them. Here are a few resources, geared toward employers and managers, to get started, along with some popular business press articles that show the increasing coverage telework has been getting lately.

Our Communication Technology survey highlights the importance of helping employees manage electronic communications and the “always on” aspect of work, but most of the telework resources on our site are geared toward the employee instead of the manager. We did a little digging, though, and found some additional resources that may be helpful.

Set Up Remote Workers to Thrive

Remote Work: An Examination of Current Trends and Emerging Issues

Preparing for a new era of work

Managing a Remote Workforce: Proven Practices from Successful Leaders

Managing In a Flexible Work Environment

Books on Managing Teleworkers

Remote: Office Not Required

The Distance Manager: A Hands On Guide to Managing Off-Site Employees and Virtual Teams

Managing Telework: Strategies for Managing the Virtual Workforce

Managing the Telecommuting Employee: Set Goals, Monitor Progress, and Maximize Profit and Productivity

The Virtual Manager: Cutting-Edge Solutions for Hiring, Managing, Motivating, and Engaging Mobile Employees

Miscellaneous Resources and Popular Press Articles

A variety of resources can be found on: globalworkplaceanalytics.com

4 Things You Need to Know About Managing a Remote Team

Work From Anywhere: 4 Tips to Manage Remote Employees

How To Build (And Sustain) A Remote Workforce

Tips For Transitioning An Office-Based Company To Remote Work

4 Essential Tips for Managing Telecommuters

Bosses without borders: Essential tools for managing remote workers

What resources do you recommend that are geared towards helping management lead employees virtually? Please share by leaving a comment below or letting us know on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/loimere / CC BY 2.0

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If you have followed my blog posts on mindfulness and business so far, perhaps you have an appreciation for some of the potential the development of this skill brings to the workplace. One of the reasons mindfulness has been practiced for over 2,500 years of human history is that it has great potential to foster human growth. When something stands the test of 2,500 years of use, it has probably been beneficial.

The issue though is how to make this mindfulness skill available for the workplace in a practical way.

The first question: Is this a personal skill that should be offered to interested individuals or is it an organizational skill that would benefit groups by improving the way they work?

There are some who have seen this as a personal skill to be developed on an individual basis. Successful individuals from major companies (like Goldman Sachs and the Ford Motor Company), professional actors and politicians have touted the value of mindfulness in their success and advocated it for others within their organizations.

This approach to a mindful workplace views a mindful practice as a positive personal choice that will benefit the individual who makes the decision to develop this skill. This choice will enhance the growth and development of the individual and it will benefit the organization that employs him or her.

Mindful practices enhance the whole person, not just the work-related part of the person. When an individual chooses to develop this skill as a personal choice it can result in a more satisfying work-life balance. The expected work benefits are indirect. Better employee health can lead to better organizational outcomes. The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award Winners have demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach many times.

Other organizations have introduced mindfulness as a workplace practice that is designed to systematically affect organizational performance. In his book Toyota Kata, Mike Rother details the approach in Toyota assembly plants to train the workforce and managers to use mindful awareness to make continuous improvement to the assembly process. Chade-Meng Tan began a program titled “Search Inside Yourself” at Google, providing mindfulness training for employees since 2007. Professional sports teams like the Seattle Seahawks and the World Championship Basketball teams of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, coached by Phil Jackson, also used mindfulness practices as an integrated part of the development of excellence in their teams.

In these organizations the application of mindfulness is applied very explicitly as a systematic process that is aligned with organizational goals. If there is a process for how to use an air gun on the line at Toyota, there is also a process for how to be aware of what to address in the quality improvement process. If there is a football process for blocking, there is also a mindful practice that promotes being able to stay in the moment and not be distracted by what happened on the previous play. These applications of mindfulness to the systematic work processes that contribute to organizational goals can be made explicit.

In contrast to the approach of encouraging mindfulness as a personal choice and letting the organization benefit from the development of employees in the practice, this organizational approach focuses on developing specific attentional skills in the workplace that are clearly connected to desired outcomes. The goal is to help the company succeed. The personal benefit of mindfulness is a side effect of this approach.

The Second Question: How much training is required to acquire a skill in mindfulness that will be able to be used effectively?

The standard for teaching mindfulness practices has been an eight week training class. Each class lasts between 2 and 2 1/2 hours. Some courses include an additional 8 hour retreat about midway through the program. This format allows the participants ample time to learn and practice mindfulness skills. Most participants who are consistent in their homework of daily mindfulness practice report a significant shift at around the fifth week of the course. The mindful awareness seems more accessible and its value is more keenly felt at around that time. There has been research studies that showed brain changes that are measurable after the completion of the eight week course.

There are alternative approaches that have been used for the development of mindfulness. Two and four day retreats have been offered for executives who are interested in learning these skills. There are shorter courses (four weeks) that are available. There is even some attempt to introduce mindful practices in a self help format. These alternative approaches may be effective but have not been studied as intensely.

It should be noted that the goal of mindfulness is to practice it daily. It is not effective to set a goal of gaining knowledge about mindfulness to use on occasions when it seems appropriate but to develop a habit of mindful attention that is consistent. Mindful attention allows an individual to be able to notice important events as they occur. If it will make an impact in your workplace it must be practiced daily.

The advantage of the eight week class is that it provides participants with an experiential awareness of how regular practice is important. Shorter introductions may be effective if they lead to regular use of the skills. When the workplace becomes an environment that supports this practice, it is easier to justify a brief introduction. The Seattle Seahawks started each practice with a mindfulness exercise. Google offers regular opportunities for group practice of mindfulness. This is may be less likely to be supported in organizations that advocate mindfulness as a personal choice. Often this requires that the individual set aside time in his or her schedule to bring mindful exercises into the workday.

Tips for finding resources

If your organization is advocating mindfulness as a personal choice for employees, you might consult with your wellness program to see if they have resources to provide mindfulness training to your employees. Many universities have mindfulness training programs and some psychologists (like me) offer classes in their private clinics. If you have a number of employees who are interested in learning mindfulness you might also work out a contract for mindfulness training classes at a preferred rate for your employees.

If your organization is looking to integrate mindfulness into the core skills of your business, consider a long-term consulting contract with a mindfulness trainer or hire a mindfulness trainer for your organization. It will be essential to have onsite and regular mindfulness practice if it is going to be an effective skill that will enhance your organizational outcomes. This might include opportunities for teams to engage in a brief mindfulness exercise at specific times during the work flow.

Here are some sources of additional information and resources for helping you create a more mindful organization:

The content provided above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The inclusion of any product, service, vendor or organization does not imply endorsement, recommendation or approval by the American Psychological Association, the APA Center for Organizational Excellence or the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chazoid / CC BY 2.0

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Human behavior in organizations holds both the highest potential and the greatest risks for the success of the business. There is incredible potential for collaborative action to build and create and improve the quality of life. There is, unfortunately, a dark side to this, too. Humans have the capacity to resist and even actively oppose the systems and processes in place at a business.

Working with the human dimension of business is one of the keys to success. In a similar way that businesses need clear financial direction and must comply with legal and regulatory requirements, it is essential to maximize the human benefits of the workforce in a sustainable way. This is more than minimizing the impact of depression or stopping bad workplace behaviors like bullying. These are important dimensions of successful work, but there is much more to high performance than the elimination of problems. Creating a mindful workplace fosters the development of qualities that help excellence to emerge.

Breaking through barriers: Buddhist monks, in their training, are sent out to spend a February night in the Himalayan mountains with nothing to keep them warm except a damp sheet, and their ability to mindfully maintain their body heat. This is an exercise that I have no desire to imitate (although I live in Wisconsin, so I could have used this skill a few times during this winter), but it is a reminder that the human mind is capable of breaking through barriers that seem to be insurmountable.

There are many, smaller ways that being mindful does allow individuals to extend themselves beyond their apparent limits. One woman completely reversed a six-month pattern of being late for work. Another man was able to overcome his anxiety and effectively train new hires in complicated job procedures--an accomplishment that ultimately helped him get a promotion. Yet another manager began to have the most productive and interactive meetings he had ever had.

These are not isolated examples but common outcomes for those I have worked with to develop their mindfulness skills. Their worksites benefited as much as they did from these changes.

Increased awareness of the positive: Positive psychologists, like Shawn Achor and Barbara Fredrickson have demonstrated significant performance increases associated with happiness at work in their research. But it turns out that knowing this often has a limited impact in the workplace because it is more difficult to notice positive events than negative events. In fact, noticing what is positive seems to require conscious awareness. Mindful practices develop this ability to become more aware of the positive. As a result, there is strong research evidence that mindfulness develops the part of the brain that is associated with happiness.

In the business world, happiness is associated with significantly higher levels of creativity, with better problem-solving skills and more effective relationships. These are important qualities to foster in a high-performing company.

Handling disruptions: Today’s work environment is full of disruptions. Some of this is because businesses are asking more from each employee in a lean workforce. Some of this is due to the electronically connected environment with instant communication demands and access to social media. It also arises when a worker is anxious about potential negative reactions. And, of course, there are the unexpected events that occur.

It is not the circumstances of life, however, that are the problem. It is our reaction to those circumstances that define us. Disruptions happen every day. They happen to every person. Developing the ability to pause and choose a response to those circumstances, rather than to give in to the first reaction, can dramatically change the impact of a disruptive event. Think about a person you consider to be “heroic.” Is your admiration of that individual due to the fact that he or she never had difficult circumstances to handle, or is he or she demonstrating “heroism” because of his or her ability to choose a response that overcame the challenges?

The skill of mindfulness creates a pause in the cycle of reactivity and makes space for a thoughtful response to emerge. Imagine an organization that was able to follow through on its intentions, even in a world where there are so many things that compete for attention.

Developing wisdom: Many skills that are developed in mindfulness training have an immediate impact on the flow of day-to-day work. There is another area of growth that occurs in a longer time span among those who are regularly practicing mindfulness. It is the development of wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to know how things fit within a bigger picture. The practice of mindfulness includes learning to take a mental step back from a situation and look at the context in which it occurs. It promotes seeing and acting in a way that is appropriate to the larger whole.

A high-performing company cannot depend only on a management team that exercises top-down control to accomplish organizational goals. A high-performing company needs workers who are able to see the big picture and understand how to integrate their action into the whole. This is what a mindful workplace promotes.

These are some of the qualities that are promoted in a mindful approach to business. There are specific skills that employees bring to the tasks of the business. These mindful qualities are characteristics that, when shared across the workforce, provide a foundation the brings out the best in each employee.

In my final article, I will discuss the process that companies are using to create a more mindful workplace for their employees.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bartmaguire / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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