The word ‘Google’ has almost become synonymous with ‘search’. But even Google is aware that it doesn’t have all the answers. Some of those big existential questions still require our own internal inquiry, even – perhaps especially – in the 21st century.
Google’s solution: ‘Search Inside Yourself‘, a mindfulness program and network that bridges ancient practice with modern technology.
The CEO and Co-Founder, Marc Lesser, has met his fair share of leaders and as a psychology scholar and executive coach, he knows what can awaken the best in people and organisations.
Ahead of his keynote at Wake Up’s Mindful Leadership Forum this Thursday, Marc offers us some words of wisdom on workplace trust, care and collaboration.
What does mindful leadership mean to you?
Mindfulness means many things to me. It is a practice and approach to life that includes inquiry, openness, and compassion. It is a way of being. A mindful leader is confident and humble, precise and flexible, and embodies the ability to get things done without an unhealthy striving.
Mindfulness and leadership can also be seen through the lens of cultivating trust. I sometimes define mindfulness and mindfulness meditation as the practice of cultivating trust in yourself as well as becoming more trustworthy. Effective leadership could be described the same way. Trust may be the most important ingredient in leading and getting things done with others.
Who do you think is doing it well today?
I see mindful leadership as aspirational. I suspect many people and some organizations are doing it well – mostly without needing or getting much attention. Google is doing some very creative work to incorporate mindfulness practices to promote a healthy and effective work force. SAP is very engaged in bringing mindful leadership practices at multiple levels of the organisation. Many smaller companies are practicing more mindful, conscious leadership.
What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from others during your career? And from whom?
One of my favorite quotes is “My life is one learning experience after another. By the end of the week I should be a genius.” I learn a lot every day from the people I work with, our customers, and those I am teaching.
One of those lessons is to not try to become an expert in mindfulness. Being a human being, and being a leader are very humbling. Mindfulness, perhaps by definition, is being open to what I don’t know, to my blind spots and what I’m not seeing – either about myself, my organization, or the world around me. My practice is to aspire to see and act more clearly and to help others as much as possible. This is the practice of responsiveness, responding to what is. Very different than reacting to my ideas and projections.
How do you apply these to your work now?
A key practice of leadership is deep listening. Some of the “way of being” practices I mentioned earlier, such as confidence and humility require a deep curiosity about what I’m wanting and feeling and what is needed; and to tune in to my team and my customers on levels that are beneath the surface.
I also think it is important to have a daily meditation practice, to develop ways to integrate mindfulness meditation practice into daily work and life, as well as to work closely with others who are practicing mindfulness together.
In what ways is this new approach to management making an impact on various industries?
These practices operate on a variety of levels: the individual, teams, organisations, and beyond. I believe that there is more awareness and more consciousness developing on all levels. This results in more people and companies working toward improving and healing our unhealthy, sometimes broken systems, from how we work together, how our food comes to us, to how we take care of the planet. And, at the same time, greed, hatred, and delusion are powerful forces.
How integral is company culture to results?
Instead of the word culture, I’ve been using the expression “how we work together” since culture often seems invisible or difficult to change. We can more easily change how we work together. Changing large organisations – or any organisation – can be challenging.
We recently led a two-day Search Inside Yourself training for a 60-person wealth management company in Northern California. The two days were followed by a four-week practice period (where participants could do daily meditation practice and explore ways we introduced in bringing emotional intelligence practices into the workplace.) At the end of this period, the company decided to change the way they work. All meetings now begin with a minute of silence. There is a commitment to more listening, more open communication, and more social action for the company as a whole.
What’s one practice you’d like to see in every business?
More listening. Real listening with an attitude of caring.
Any advice for entrepreneurs, employers or employees wanting to become more mindful at work?
Take small steps. Practice a little every day. Find ways to create community.