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Jun 9, 2017
This article is part of a series called Higher Performance Workforce.

Mindfulness is defined as:

the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment.

When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the immediate moment, rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. Being mindful simply means being fully connected to the reality of what is, and accepting this reality even if we don’t like it.

When we’re mindful we’re fully connected to ourselves and to other people, and this connection allows us to lead ourselves and others to shared certainty, rather than individual confusion.

The benefits of mindfulness

Mindfulness delivers significant benefits in the workplace by helping leaders and employees bring their best selves to work.

Mindfulness improves our work performance and enjoyment because it improves our decision-making ability, the quality of our working relationships, and our effectiveness as leaders.

A report from UNC’s Kenan-Flager Business School summarized multiple studies of the impact of mindfulness training in the workplace. “Practicing mindfulness at work:

  • Reduces employee absenteeism and turnover;
  • Improves cognitive functions (i.e., concentration, memory, and learning ability);
  • Increases employee productivity;
  • Enhances employer/employee and client relationships, and;
  • Improves job satisfaction.”

After Aetna introduced mindfulness programs to its 50,000 employees, the company found that workers who had taken at least one class reported:

  • 28% reduction in workplace stress
  • 20% improvement in sleep quality
  • 62 minutes weekly, on average, of improved productivity, which the company valued at $3,000 per employee annually
  • Employee medical claims declined, saving the company $9 million in the first year of the program.

How mindfulness impacts leadership

The essence of good leadership is knowing where to lead employees.

The essence of knowing where to lead other people is knowing where to lead ourselves. We have to discover our full working potential before we can lead others to discovering their full working potential, according to Dr. Stephen McKenzie, author of Mindfulness at Work.

Dr. McKenzie offers the following advice on how we can become better leaders by experiencing mindful connectedness with the people with which we work.

6 keys to mindful leadership

We are not great leaders regardless of the employees we lead; we are great leaders because of them.

1. Lead unselfishly

If we’re leading because we want to help employees get where they need to be to best express their professional abilities then we will lead others and ourselves to a good place – professionally and psychologically.

2. Be inspiring

Great leaders inspire and transform others by inspiring and transforming themselves. They recognize potential greatness in themselves and in others that might otherwise never have been discovered.

3. Create common goals

Being mindful more of the time helps us be better leaders by uniting us in common goals and ways of achieving them, and frees us of our separate ideas about what needs to be done and how to do it.

4. Be courageous

Mindfulness gives us the courage to face reality, and therefore see real opportunities – to lead ourselves and others too.

5. Listen to people

Being fully mindful means really listening to people who work for us, as well as people we work for, and not listening to what we think they’re saying. If we listen to colleagues as if hearing them for the first time we create new ways of understanding and doing.

6. Be a conductor, not a controller

When we’re mindful we recognize when someone in our working orchestra is playing their own tune rather than playing in harmony with everyone else. Give teammates clear direction on their shared working goals, and the space to find their own best way to be a wonderful working part of a wonderful working whole.

A version of this post appeared on

This article is part of a series called Higher Performance Workforce.
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