As I was reading a recent issue of Time Magazine, I stumbled across a feature article entitled “The Art of Being Mindful” and it immediately piqued my interest. The focus of the piece was an exploration of a fairly recent movement centered on learning to shift focus back to the present moment, a remedy for the fractured attention spans and constant multi-tasking that has become not only prevalent, but normal and even expected in our fast-paced, technologically driven society. Though this idea is certainly nothing new, it seems in a world where there are increasingly more distractions and demands for our attention as a result of devices that allow us to be connected around the clock, more and more people are realizing the benefit of focusing on being mindful.
In fact, enough people have begun to see the benefits of mindfulness that there is now a growing industry surrounding it. The article talked about “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) classes that people regularly pay hundreds of dollars to attend to learn mindfulness techniques. In 2007, Americans reportedly spent $4 million annually on mindfulness related alternative medicine, a figure that will be updated later this year. And there is even an Institute for Mindful Leadership, a Wisdom 2.0 annual conference for tech leaders in Silicon Valley, and numerous mindfulness and meditation apps available for our smart phones.
This fascinates me. As I already mentioned, the idea of being mindful is certainly nothing new. I recently began practicing yoga, and one of the key elements of the practice is focus on being present in the moment, most often by paying particular attention to your breath. Yoga and meditation have been around for centuries, long before MBSR classes began to be offered. What interests me most is the idea that more and more people are realizing there is a need to bring more awareness to being in the moment; that too many of us are multi-tasking to the point of complete distraction.
As HR professionals regularly interacting with other people and/or dealing with various people related issues, it would seem to be common sense that we would always be mindful in those interactions. But are we?
How often can you honestly say you are totally and completely in the moment in your interactions with others? Are you really listening, or do you find your mind wandering to the next task on your to-do list, or the next meeting on your calendar? When you have an employee or one of your team members in your office, do you focus on the conversation, or are you multi-taking by reading or answering emails? Are you likely to take a phone call if it rings in the midst of that conversation, or will you let it go to voicemail and center your attention on the person in front of you?
Mindfulness in interactions with others is important for all leaders, but in HR, when we’re often dealing with emotionally charged situations, it’s even more critical. If you can honestly say that you are 100% mindful in all of your interactions, great – keep up the good work! However, if you are like many of us (myself included) and tend to find your mind wandering and your attention everywhere but where it should be, I challenge you to consciously focus on keeping yourself more in the moment. Bring just a little more mindfulness to the work you do each day. It may just make you not only a better leaders and HR pro, but by truly giving undivided attention to the person in front of you, may actually help strengthen your relationships with those around you as well.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has 15 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.