Thousands upon thousands of people wandering aimlessly, gazing at their palms, devoid of feeling, disoriented, and disengaged from their surroundings. No, this is not the zombie apocalypse—this is the digital age.
In the workplace of our present, more and more employees are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and disengaged, leading to lower productivity, lack of innovation, and terrible emotional health.
And it’s not just the employees. Workplaces are teeming with burned-out leaders, the ones who are responsible for decision-making, big-picture thinking, and also the wellbeing of others. If they are under duress, what chance does the average employee have?
Cue the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of clearing your mind from all the clutter that work creates. Brandon Rennels, teacher development manager at the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI), is a regional authority on the emotional intelligence skills needed to sustain peak performance, collaborate successfully and become compassionate, effective leaders.
Before joining SIYLI, he worked in Dubai as a senior consultant for Oliver Wyman, after which he pursued training in mindfulness at the monasteries of Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. He has, therefore, sat on both sides of the table.
According to Rennels, mindfulness isn’t something one “achieves” in a traditional sense. It’s more about being than doing. It’s a moment-to-moment awareness that one can cultivate through practice.
Start every morning with a few minutes of quiet. You can use guided meditation if that’s helpful or just sit in silence focusing on your breath. When the mind wanders, gently but persistently bring it back.
Set yourself an intention to notice when you are triggered by others in meetings, and resolve to not speak when you are feeling angry. Even if you have a knee-jerk reaction and say something you later regret, reflect afterwards on the cause of the trigger and what about it made you so upset.
At the beginning of each month, look back at what motivates you to come into work that day. Journal about it for a few minutes and, if you can, share it with a trusted friend. If you’re feeling inspired, ask those you work with what is currently motivating them to show up.
Find a person each week
Every week, find one person that you work with to wish well. You can say silently to yourself “May this person be well. May he be at peace.” This helps to build your empathy and connection to others, particularly with whom you may not interact with much.
When on vacation, be there
Don’t be working on vacations. Set an intention not to check your email. If you must check then set specific dates/times where you respond to email. By allowing yourself to truly relax while you are away, you are likely to be more refreshed and engaged upon returning to work.
How Emotional Intelligence Affects Leadership
Emotional intelligence consists of several key elements: Self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy, and social/interpersonal skills. All of these are essential skills for leaders. Self-awareness enables leaders to understand how they work most effectively and delegate appropriately. Self-management supports collaboration and effective communication. The ability to motivate both oneself and others is imperative for a good leader and workforce. Empathy and interpersonal skills are important for building trust in the workplace. Without trust, morale can drop sharply, and with it, productivity.
1. INNATE POWER
A common misconception is that emotional quotient (EQ) is something people either have or they don’t. The SIYLI program, for example, is based on the insight that mindfulness is closely related to self-awareness, which is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Mindfulness has been demonstrated to be trainable, and therefore self-awareness, and by extension, all of the emotional intelligence is highly trainable.
2. MAGIC POTION
Another misconception is that one can read about EQ without practicing it, and expect to see real progress. These skills, while highly trainable, can require a good amount of effort. Reading about EQ without practicing is like going to a restaurant and looking at the menu but not eating. The menu can look great, but if you don’t eat, it won’t nourish you. Look for programs that focus on practice and direction over just content.
3. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
A final misconception, particularly for people in positions of leadership, is that they can have their employees take an EQ program without taking one themselves, and expect to see real progress. People within organizations take their cues from their managers. So if they hear a message that EQ is important but don’t see leadership embodying the practices, it is unlikely they will take it seriously.