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Mindful at Work

Overwhelm and stress won’t get you far. Here’s what will

Through her organization Institute for Mindful Leadership, former General Mills executive Janice Marturano teaches how to be mindful and successful leaders.

Before dedicating her work to mindfulness, Janice Marturano spent 15 years at General Mills, Inc. as vice president, public responsibility and deputy general counsel.

A drastic shift? Not so much.

While serving as a senior executive of the Fortune 200 company, Marturano experienced her own struggle living an over-connected, over-committed stressful lifestyle, typical of so many American workers. She came across the power of mindfulness during this critical period of her life and through sharing her findings, experienced personally and professionally how transformative mindfulness and self-awareness can be for success.

Now, as founder and executive director of Institute for Mindful Leadership, she’s committed to sharing this impactful work with organizations and leaders across the world. We connected with Marturano to explore what exactly mindful leadership is, how it can transform work culture and small ways we can implement mindful practices today.

How has your corporate experience impacted the work you now share?

Janice MarturanoJanice Marturano: While I was working in the corporate world, I saw bright, enthusiastic professionals who wanted to make a difference with the work they were assigned. They had passion for the work and were well educated so it seemed as though they had what they needed to excel. But, they were often so overwhelmed with the to-do lists, the daily “fires” and the constant distractions from 24/7 technology that it left them going through the day on autopilot.

When I began to learn about mindfulness and combined it with what I understood about the needs of developing great leadership in today’s world, the transformative nature of mindful leadership began to emerge through a new training. This is not “mindfulness for leaders,” it is “mindful leadership,” and it applies to everyone at every level of an organization. This is the work the Institute for Mindful Leadership has been doing for 15 years.

How is Institute for Mindful Leadership redefining traditional corporate culture?

JM: We work with all forms of organizations and with individual leaders to explore the many ways you can strengthen the four fundamentals of excellence: focus, clarity, creativity and compassion. While these are fundamentals, they are also often the first qualities to be weakened when our hurried, over-connected world puts us on autopilot. Through meditation, leadership reflections (e.g. principles, inspiration) and Purposeful Pause trainings, we begin to show professionals how to strengthen each of the fundamentals of excellence. And when we do, organizations begin to notice that employees are better able to make more conscious choices, communicate authentically, show up fully and jettison wasteful meetings and assignments.

How have you seen mindfulness trainings impact an organization's day-to-day operations?

JM: One of the first and most impactful changes that shows up when a team or organization has a mindful leadership culture is the dramatic changes in communications and meetings. Participants learn about the myth of multitasking and begin to set up rules for the meetings that include “no phones or laptops can be opened." And, they learn about their personal communication approach and how it might not be serving them.

For example, they learn that if you are busy rehearsing your contribution while the meeting is going on, you will miss what is being said. This kind of rehearsing is also a form of multitasking so you can’t listen while your mind is going through a speech. They learn to trust that what you need to say will be there when you need it. And you will also have the ability to modify it if necessary as the meeting evolves. Just imagine how different your meeting would be if everyone was unplugged and really paying attention. For that matter, just imagine how different dinner with friends/family would be!

What are the long-term benefits of cultivating mindful workplaces?

JM: Finding the “win-win-win” is the ultimate goal of mindful leadership training. If we show people how to strengthen and use the innate capacities of the mind and body, they are more likely to find the spaciousness needed to make conscious choices that are good for the organization, good for the employees and good for the big picture.

Our world’s challenges are not insurmountable, but we do need a new kind of leadership. And each person can make a difference. In addition to strengthening your capacity to be focused, clear, creative and compassionate, we teach professionals to rediscover their principles and to cultivate life choices that cultivate resiliency.

You've mentioned everyone is a leader. What are one or two ways someone can start leading with mindfulness today?

JM: Mindful Leadership training begins with you. Look at your calendar for this week. Where is one place where you can take a small step toward finding that “win-win-win”? And where is one place where you can make a choice to strengthen your resilience (get more sleep, say “no” to something, nourish your body with healthy food)? Of course, training your mind is like training your body. There is no shortcut, and you need good trainers.

Interested in bringing mindful leadership training to your organization? Check out Institute for Mindful Leadership's extensive offerings.

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