I recently came back from my annual seven-day silent, mindfulness retreat (I typically go on a mindfulness retreat once a year, sometimes more). For those of you know what this is, you’re likely saying “ah, that sounds really, really great – wish I were there right now”! For those of you who might not know what a mindfulness retreat is, you’re likely saying “huh – a WHAT retreat?”
Allow me to elaborate a bit, and then we’ll talk about mindfulness for your team! A mindfulness retreat is designed to help you slow down our usual fast daily pace to a snail’s pace…no phones, no e-mail, nothing to do but BE PRESENT, in each moment. Oh yes, and did I also mention no talking? So, here I was, at this beautiful retreat center, in silence, doing only one thing at a time….for seven glorious days! The benefit, in case you’re still wondering, is that when there is complete silence, you can learn to train your mind to turn off the “chatter” and eliminate (well, at least reduce!) daily distractions, so that you can be present to what is happening right now – fully present – to the one activity in which you are engaged.
Now, you may be asking “so what’s the benefit to reducing the distractions”? The benefit is that you become much more mindful, or aware of everything that you do. You get to fully appreciate what you’re doing because you are fully present to the experience! You also see things for what they really are – you see the truth about things – no denial – without all of the illusions we typically create in our lives. No assumptions, no distractions, no illusions…..just the truth about our current experience, feelings, thoughts, etc – right there in front of us.
Sometimes, it’s really painful to be with our thoughts, feelings, etc., which is why many of us distract ourselves with other things, so that we don’t have to experience those difficult feelings and thoughts. As we all know, though, by denying that something exists doesn’t mean that it goes away – whether it’s something in our work situations or our personal lives. By having the courage to fully experience all of our experiences, we can more fully experience everything in life.
Ok, what does this have to do with your team? Teams are impacted greatly by the level of mindfulness, or presence, of its team members. Teams that are fully present with and for each other are typically more successful.
Think about the team that you spend the most time with – your work team, your volunteer team, a parent committee, etc. Keep that team in mind as you ask these questions:
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most mindful), how mindful is my team on any given day?
In what way(s) does my team act mindfully – i.e., in what ways is my team present to each experience with each other? This often happens when team members are fully present by fully listening to each other when each person speaks, and being open to hearing each person’s opinion. Honoring and appreciating diverse opinions on a team is a critical success factor for a team, by the way!
In what way(s) does my team NOT act mindfully – i.e., in what ways is my team NOT present to each experience and each team member? A team is not acting mindfully if the team members are talking over each other, arguing loudly, etc. Or, when team members physically attend a meeting by showing up, but allow themselves to be distracted by their e-mails or answering cell phone calls while the meeting is occurring. By definition, you can’t be mindful and multi-tasking at the same time!
What is one thing my team can do to become more mindful? Help your team by asking them “how can we be more mindful and present with each other?” By being more mindful, your team members will respect each other more, which will increase the trust and camaraderie on your team. For those of you who have been through our team development workshops, you know the three most critical factors contributing to a team’s success: trust, respect and camaraderie.
As you can see, mindful teams are likely more productive and sustainable for the long term. If your team is already fairly mindful, congratulations – please celebrate that with them! If your team has lost its mindfulness they can get it back – you can help them get it back through implementing some of the suggestions above.