How to use mindfulness at work to become a successful leader

Registered Nurse and Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK
12 April 2018

If you begin to feel stressed or overwhelmed at work, taking a few moments to slow down, breathe and be present can help you to feel calmer and more focused. So if you’re responsible for other people in the workplace, practising mindfulness at work could help you to be a better leader. Whether you’re a CEO, director, manager, or team leader, why not lead by example by trying these three simple mindfulness techniques.

A man and woman looking at a document at work

Take it one task at a time

The best mindful leaders are often great at focusing on the present moment and the task at hand, rather than trying to manage everything at once.

If you’re trying to multi-task, it might mean you start lots of different jobs before completing any of them, which can become overwhelming. Try to really focus on the job in front of you, and bring it to a sensible stopping point before you move on to the next one.

Tip: When you feel your mind wandering, gently pull it back by paying attention to your breathing. Set a timer for one minute, and take this time to notice your breathing. Once you’re ready, go back to the task. Each time you do this, you're training your brain to focus.

Let your team see you working this way, and encourage them to try this technique too. Once you set this standard consistently in your workplace, others will usually follow.

Practise self-awareness

To be a good mindful leader, it’s important to have a strong awareness of your own emotions, as well as the feelings, strengths and weaknesses of others.

Start by getting to know your own feelings and accepting your strengths and weaknesses. Then take note of the reactions of other people (especially when they’re in a difficult situation), and respond appropriately.

Effective leaders create a positive emotional environment, which is very productive. They’re motivated by values, rather than a quest for rewards or power, and other people can pick up on this and feel inspired. Leading in this way can help your team to feel motivated to work towards shared goals.

Tip: Practise empathy and encourage open conversations. For example, if you see a team member becoming stressed, take the time to talk to them, give them permission to take a break and slow down. Visit our online information for more tips and advice for line managers to help support employees in the workplace.

Focus on the positive

Good leaders are positive and optimistic, moving towards goals, rather than away from problems.

There are two distinct styles of leadership: avoidance-led and approach-led.

While it’s normal to feel under pressure sometimes at work, try not to follow an avoidance-led management style. This means you might focus on what could go wrong and trying to avoid any potential risks.

Instead, try to stay optimistic and focus on the positives with an approach-led style of managing. Mindful leaders who think like this are creative, and have the ability to spot potential and seek rewards. They’re also often a pleasure to work with, and bring out the best in other people.

You can train your brain to follow an approach-led way of thinking through regular mindfulness practice both in and out of work. Then watch as the benefits become apparent – you’ll gradually notice your team enjoying a more open environment where communication flows, people feel valued and expectations are exceeded.

Tip: Get out into the fresh air on your lunch break and try our mindful walking meditation podcasts to help clear your mind.

Mindfulness is a great way to nurture your mental health. Our health insurance allows you to skip GP referral in some cases, and speak to a consultant straight away.

Jane Bozier
Registered Nurse and Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK

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