Last month I lived with 9 other people on a Mindfulness and Pilates retreat. Because the weather was bad (yes, it does happen in Spain too) we were living in closer proximity than usual to each other. This got me thinking about mindfulness and kindness at work and in the everyday. Mindfulness is not a separate phenomenon. It doesn’t just end after a 10-minute meditation. Mindfulness is about being present.
On our retreat I invited people to be present to the needs of others, this led to acts of kindness, which helped us live collaboratively.
There are three key principles that are intrinsic to kindness, which can lead to collaborative working:
Thinking about an office environment, there’s generally one or two people making the tea or the same person booking the Christmas party – whether these people enjoy these tasks or not – this isn’t equality.
By recognising that the same people are stepping up, kindness is about stepping forward yourself. If we are all equal in our efforts then we know that no one person is doing all the work. In a collaborative team, everyone takes responsibility and tasks are shared among all team members making everyone feel valued.
We all know how important it is too be respectful to others, but how does respect relate to kindness?
Carefully listening to your colleague’s opinion without interruption and then thinking about what you say in response is respectful. For example,
“Is it more important for me to have my point of view voiced or to seek to understand without any judgement in this instance?”
Add in kindness – then you will be thinking more about their feelings and this will translate into thoughtful behaviour.
In Action Learning, we call this ‘speaking from the ‘I’’. This is about being responsible for what you say. When you take ownership for what you say, you tend to use ‘I’ rather than ‘we’, or ‘us’ or ‘you’.
For example, one person on our retreat said: “We’re not that keen on doing more walks”. But was that actually true? On further discussion 7 out of 8 people did in fact want more walks.
In an office environment, a team member may say “no-one wants to do the team building exercise” but when discussed collaboratively and with respect you find that the majority do want to do the activity. In these two examples, taking ownership would result in you not assuming everyone else’s opinion and allowing others to share their point of view before stating your own first.
On the retreat, we included kindness in our every-day principles, and it resulted in a more thoughtful and collaborative experience, with each person feeling valued. Everyone helped with keeping the house tidy, sharing equipment, clearing up after a meal and sharing food – ensuring that everyone had eaten before diving in for that second helping.
When we adopt these principles in our daily lives, it can really make a difference to how a team gels together and with kindness at the heart, work is a much more pleasant place to be.
Mindful leaders are better leaders; as they are skilled communicators, and work thoughtfully and respectfully with others. Give it a try, use these principles in your life and see what kind of impact it has.