I met with a senior manager last month who talked about being in a team where trust was breaking down and how poor communication negatively impacted on both learning and the ability to address problems. I was usefully reminded that trust within teams and being open to, and accepting, of different points of view and different ways of working are essential elements of effective team working. Also important is a good awareness of self, other people and the context in which you are working as this allows the team to identify and resolve problems quickly. I have worked in some great teams, I have also worked in teams that were dysfunctional and therefore damaging to not only the individuals within the team but also the organisation. Almost all of the teams I have worked in would have benefited from mindful leadership practices.
As a business consultant I have consistently found that effective teams are led by people who:
- Expect the best from themselves and the other people within the team but at the same time avoid placing pointless pressure and challenge on individuals
- Open themselves up to the people they work with, even if at times this means showing vulnerability, instead of creating barriers
- Take the time needed to fully understand a situation before acting and to be able to adapt their response to each situation rather than reacting
- Appreciate what is happening in the present instead of chasing goal after goal
- Recognise that things will not stay the same and are comfortable with this
- Avoid stifling creativity and innovation by imposing their views on others and more importantly encourage and acknowledge other’s contributions
- Use and build upon what they already know or have in place rather than introducing something completely different
- Embrace conflicts as an opportunity for growth rather than avoiding them
- Have confidence in themselves and their ability, and are not threatened by others, being willing to say they don’t know or to admit mistakes
So how can leaders develop and demonstrate the attributes required for mindful leadership?
Learning about mindfulness and developing a mindfulness practice can help leaders become more aware and less inclined to react to situations out of habit. They are better able to focus and develop greater clarity and a greater sense of connection with their team. As a result they are more inclined to:
- Provide employees with a safe and supportive working environment and provide opportunities for people to put forward new ideas and to sharing information in an open and honest way knowing that their contribution will be considered
- Demonstrate by their own actions the importance of taking joint responsibility for getting the job done whilst at the same time taking care of one another.
- Encourage individuals to think in terms of what the team does rather than individual roles and responsibilities. This does not mean moving away from the existing structure but simply being willing to adapt.
- Make time available for team members to get together and to be able to reflect and make sense of things together.