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Emotional intelligence – what’s all the hype?

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By Edward Matti, MP, CCM Consultancy

Over the last few years, we’ve been hearing a lot about mindfulness in the workplace, and more importantly, in leadership.  And one must wonder what all the hype is about.  Is this a form of meditation?  Is this related to Emotional Intelligence?  Is this scientific or simply a fad that will soon die out?  Maybe it’s some or all of these, so it’s important to take a closer look at what mindfulness really means and how it can benefit individuals and organisations alike.  After all, it’s hard to believe that some of the biggest multinationals got it all wrong when they introduced mindfulness into their learning curriculum for mid-level and senior executives.

The term ‘mindfulness’ is defined as being an attitude of mind that allows you to reach a state of heightened awareness of your own experience in terms of your thoughts, actions, feelings and emotions. Developing your mindfulness builds your ability to stay connected with yourself and your own goals without letting emotions or negative thoughts and associations interfere. The practice of mindfulness blends techniques from Eastern meditative disciplines with a scientific protocol developed by Western psychology.  Numerous scientific studies show that the practice of mindfulness can improve:

  • The level of the immune system – you get sick less often and heal faster
  • Emotional intelligence – ensuring emotions work for you and not against you
  • Your intellectual performance – keeps you more easily focused and alert about what is really important
  • A positive attitude – you look at life with greater confidence and less anxiety
  • Your interpersonal relationships –better understand our own needs as well as those of others
  • Your creativity – remove inhibitions and unleash your creative potential

The practice of mindfulness develops self-observation, the ability to spot emotional reactions and impulses that prompt action before they occur. This acknowledgment develops a greater awareness and a more effective management of our behavior, without having to over-suppress or control our own emotional experience.

The mindful workplace
Organisations today have adopted a forward-thinking approach to mindfulness, by adapting the concept to business needs while maintaining the core principle of looking at the experience of life in an active way, free from any bias and to make work effective.  People who use mindfulness in the workplace are reported to have a better ability to communicate clearly and have more appropriate reactions to stressful situations. This increased awareness helps to reduce tension. People report a better ability to manage conflict, improve teamwork, increase the ability to “think in an original way”, and in some cases even greater creativity.

Using mindfulness in the workplace is very beneficial for companies and their people. Mindfulness can help companies provide a higher standard of customer service by equipping their staff with the skills to respond more adequately to the challenges of daily living; it can also help individuals respond more appropriately to their superiors and colleagues with whom they have already experienced contrast. A few minutes of mindfulness at the beginning of a meeting usually leads to a clearer focus, improved communication and better decision-making processes. Teams who practice mindfulness, even for a few minutes a day, experience better teamwork and improved group relations.

While innovation cannot be achieved on demand, it can be developed both inwardly and outwardly through the practice of mindfulness. Cultivating awareness through mindfulness gives everyone a new way of experiencing all aspects of their lives with a greater sense of competence, connection, openness and balance.

Mindful leadership drives organisational success
In leadership, as it has always been, the ability to draw on an internal reservoir of creative resources is a hallmark of success. Recent research shows that the “presence” of the leaders and their ability to continuously promote their own personal development are the keys to excellence. Only those able to draw on an internal source of inspiration, knowledge and an ability to connect with their deepest values, find the energy and creativity required to cope with the biggest challenges.

Today, the spread of mindfulness techniques provides leaders wanting to develop their own personal energy with the appropriate technology to better achieve their goals. When we look at mindfulness as a leadership trait, it is viewed as a critical element that governs the various levels of intelligence driving the entire being: Bioenergetics Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence, Mental Intelligence, Strategic Intelligence and Intuitive Intelligence.

If you’re wondering what comes next for you as a leader, and what you need to do in order to unlock creativity, inspire others and focus your energy on what matters most, take a closer look at mindfulness.  It may not be a fad after all, but rather a way of achieving the next level of effective leadership.