Why Supervisors Should Be Mindful in the Workplace

Why Supervisors Should Be Mindful in the Workplace

It may seem like the word "mindful” and its derivatives have been skyrocketing in popularity in the last few years. However, the words "mindful or mindfulness" can be traced back to the fifth century BC in the 37 Factors of Enlightenment—Buddha's most essential teachings. It's only become a "buzzword" in the Western world over the last few years.

What exactly is mindful leadership in the workplace? Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. In the workplace, a mindful leader is present in the moment and cultivates a non-judgmental environment. A supervisor who practices mindful leadership tactics can handle problems with clarity, creativity, and compassion. A mindful leader encourages the team and boosts morale. To become a mindful leader, one must take an honest self-evaluation and ask the following:

  1. Am I leading to serve?
  2. Am I willing and able to put the interests of the company ahead of my own?
  3. Am I leading because I enjoy power and control?

For a supervisor to become a successful and mindful leader, they must leave the ego at the door and be willing to put the interests of others first. Here are five useful tools for those who want to become more mindful leaders:


1. Do More Listening, Less Talking

While it might be tempting to dismiss someone's thoughts or ideas, remember that mindful leaders are present and open-minded. To achieve this, you must ensure that you are actively listening when someone is speaking to you. Listening and understanding your team members is vital. Sometimes the best ideas stem from someone unexpected, so you must ensure that you are always actively listening. Alfred Brendel once noted, "The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent."


2. Mentor, Not Dictate

As a supervisor, your goal is to provide gentle guidance and mentorship to your teams. You don't want to control all their decisions. A mindful leader has a calm attitude and a sense of awareness. As you mentor your team, you want them to follow your example. People do not like being micromanaged. They find it intrusive and insulting. As a supervisor, you need to find the balance between when to be intrusive (it may be needed at times) and when you need to let go and promote creative freedom. A mindful leader can find this delicate balance.


3. Lead by Example 

Most of you have probably had a supervisor who would say one thing and do another at some point in time. Over time, this behavior will lead to a deterioration of trust. To become a mindful leader, you must "talk the talk and walk the walk." You are the team's role model. Your attitude and influence will impact the culture of your organization. You are in a position to lead by example and create a positive influence for those around you.


4. Communicate Compassionately 

Words are impactful. Supervisors should be able to communicate with their teams in both a mindful and compassionate way. Have you ever wanted to respond to an e-mail quickly because you were upset or frustrated? A mindful leader considers emotions and gives thought to the words used before sending a reply. The same is true when talking face-to-face with someone. It pays to take a few seconds to ask if what you are saying is, in fact, honest and beneficial. As a leader, your communication should be as compassionate and thoughtful as possible. By doing so, you run a greater likelihood of receiving a positive outcome.


5. Appreciate and Recognize Your Team

It's human nature to want praise and to hear that we are doing a good job. Likewise, your team members want to be appreciated for their efforts. Simply receiving a paycheck is not enough for many employees. Mindful leaders know that extending regular praise and encouragement to their team can counteract and help defuse the times when they need to deliver critical feedback. Employees who feel appreciated are more likely to be engaged and productive. Supervisors need to make an extra effort to appreciate and recognize team members frequently.


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About the Author

As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

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