Expand your mindfulness

Facing a tough economy and heavy workloads, strung-out managers are turning to a range of meditation techniques to help them keep their cool and become better bosses. John Morrish seeks out some headspace.

by John Morrish

Times are fraught, and overstretched executives are constantly on the lookout for a way to clear their minds so they can work in a calmer, more effective, and more responsive way. Cultivating a special state of consciousness called 'mindfulness' - an intense awareness of the here and now - is proving attractive to a growing number of senior managers, both in the US and here.

Mindfulness is achieved by meditation techniques, often involving sitting on a cushion, eyes closed, concentrating on the inflow and outflow of your breath. Or you might spend 10 minutes studying, sniffing, tasting and finally eating a piece of fruit. That might make it sound like a remnant of the hippy-dippy, navel-gazing 1960s and 1970s, but the evidence for mindfulness's effectiveness is good enough to have impressed hard-nosed companies such as Google (which has invited mindfulness gurus to speak at the Googleplex), General Mills, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deutsche Bank, Procter & Gamble, AstraZeneca, Apple, Credit Suisse, KPMG, Innocent, Reuters and many more.

According to Don McCormick, assistant professor of management at California State University and a dedicated meditator, it 'can help individuals to manage workplace stress, perform tasks more effectively, enhance self-awareness and self-regulation, experience work as more meaningful, improve workplace relationships, increase ethical behaviour, and make perception more accurate'. It is said to pay dividends for leaders and managers, by improving the quality of their listening and communicating.

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