There’s a new type of personal trainer for hire, but it’s not your body they strengthen, it’s your mind.
Their role forms part of a global movement that’s sweeping the corporate world, where the likes of Google, LinkedIn and the Harvard Business School are implementing mindful tools, techniques and practices into their teams and workplaces.
The ROI? New and improved levels of creativity, productivity and overall performance.
The Mindful Leadership Forum brings together leaders from business, science and the arts to explore this new era of leadership. Two of the forum’s speakers at this year’s Sydney event are Samantha Graham PhD and Derek Leddie, aforementioned ‘Mind Trainers’ and co-founders of Out of your Mind.
They’ve worked with clients across property, tech, finance, lifestyle and sport, such as Lend Lease, Microsoft, Diageo and currently the South Sydney Rabbitohs – a partnership that has been credited as a critical factor in breaking the team’s 43 year drought.
Here the pair reveal the powerful ripple effect that Mindful/Awareness/Present Moment (whatever you prefer to call it) programs are having on individuals, workplaces, industries and the world.
What does mindful leadership mean to you?
The essence of what we do is waking people up to their inner narratives, helping them to notice the noise and turn it down, so they can experience life from the calm eye of the storm, rather than getting caught up in the mayhem of modern existence.
This lifts anyone’s performance, those who see themselves as leaders or not, allowing them to show up more fully for whatever it is in life they’re doing.
We tend not to use the word ‘mindful’ in our programs as for every person the term attracts, it potentially puts another person off, so we tend to talk more about ‘presence’.
Who do you think is doing it well today?
We work with brands and teams who are just opening the door into this space, so it’s early days for them. However the Rabbitohs Rugby League team and the St Kilda AFL team are leading their fields in terms of collectively and consciously choosing these practices in order to lift performance as a team.
‘Mind Trainer’ is a very cool job title! Please tell us about it…
We wanted to create a new category rather than fit into an existing one. The term describes what we do, which is train the mind, just like people might go to the gym to work out with someone who helps them train their body.
What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from others during your career? And from whom?
For Sam: My greatest teacher has been Darryl Chute, the bass player in the band I’m in, Vegas Nerve. Methodical, rigorous, disciplined, he has very high standards, a vision of where he’s aiming to get us to, and decades of experience taking people to levels of performance we couldn’t have imagined possible. Plus as all musicians know, playing music is about being fully present, smiling at the inner critic and stepping into the flow – the melody, the rhythm, the feel of creating something with others. This is the ideal practice ground for sharpening the saw and keeping us honest in what we teach daily through Out Of Your Mind.
For Derek: My dog Chai who is always fully present.
How do you apply these to your work now?
For Sam: I look for the gradual build in learning and teaching and see the joy of people’s accomplishments over time with respect to them developing more awareness and control over their mind and their emotions. In the past I would have been wanting an instant improvement and been in a hurry to see change, impatient for a quick ROI. He’s shown me [not only that] good things take time and practice, but that there is also a wise way to do things that can by-pass some of the drudgery of getting really good at something. Smart practice not laboured practice. That’s the principle we’ve built Out Of Your Mind around.
For Derek: I try to be open and learn from as many teachers as I can, just the way Chai welcomes all dogs into her life. I’ve tried to steer clear of aligning myself to a particular teacher or philosophy.
In what ways is this new approach to management making an impact?
We’ve seen huge impacts in executive leadership teams in everything from accounting firms to broadcasters, the construction industry to not for profits such as one set up to assist carers of people suffering from Motor Neuron Disease. All the people we meet are overwhelmed and significantly stressed, and while the stresses they face vary in degree, the remedies are pretty similar. They free people up to do what they have to do with greater heart, more clarity and an increased sense of spaciousness, stability and resilience.
How integral is company culture to output?
Culture is the heart of any organisation. The ANZ Cultural Transformation program called Breakout, under a former CEO John MacFarlane, was a brilliant case study in what can be achieved when senior management are committed to getting the most out of their people and transforming a culture to be an inspiring place to work. 31,000 staff went through the program of 1, 2 or 3 days, depending on seniority and a core component of it was meditation. To this day staff who went through it will speak highly of the benefits they got from Breakout, both professionally and personally, and the stats on company performance show its efficacy without a shadow of a doubt in terms of results in the marketplace.
What’s one practice you’d like to see in every business?
A room or outdoor space set aside where people can go to meditate and get out of their minds, back into their bodies and their sense of who they are.
Any advice for entrepreneurs, employers or employees wanting to become more mindful at work?
Don’t worry what others think just make it happen. If a bunch of delightful, athletic footy players can do it, so can you!