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How mindfulness and coaching can pave the way for happier and more productive leadership

14 September 2016

Mindfulness alone will bring enormous benefits personally and professionally. Embracing a coaching culture will help the commitment and performance of staff soar, whilst freeing the leaders’ time to respond to the ever changing environment that we work in.

If you had told me three years ago that I’d be speaking at a conference, I would not have believed you! I had spent my working life refusing to do anything of the sort.

Instead I used my energy being the best I could be in my role. I had two promotions and I averaged 75% in 14 ACCA accountancy exams whilst working and raising a young family.

Sounds good right? I was praised for my determination, self-efficacy and high standards.

The problem was that I was always worrying about things in the past, or planning for the future, working hard to meet my perfectionist standards. I was rarely living in the present moment – the only moment we actually have.

In 2013 that changed when I learnt about mindfulness.

Mindfulness involves consciously paying attention, to the present moment and doing so non-judgementally.

There are neurological changes which takes place through practicing mindfulness. The activity of the amygdala, the part of your brain responsible for your fight or flight response, reduces. The result is that you feel less anxious and when your stress levels rise they decline more quickly. The part of your brain responsible for concentration increases, which has a direct impact on productivity.

You can practice mindfulness formally or informally through meditation. Some prefer to meditate sitting down, noticing their breath, whilst others prefer walking meditations or meditating whilst brushing their teeth or showering. The important thing is to commit to spending some time in the present moment, noticing that moment. If your mind wanders into other thoughts, you notice it has wandered and then bring it back.

Noticing your thoughts gives you a different relationship to them. Instead of becoming lost in them, you get better at observing them. Your thoughts, especially unhelpful thoughts, don’t define you.

I used to have the thought that ‘I can’t do a presentation’. Mindfulness has helped me to be more courageous by not letting that thought hold me back.

In 2015 Connect Housing began a process of transition to a coaching culture. I was surprised at the links between mindfulness and coaching. In both you are empowered to be resourceful, to take control of your life, of your choices and to respond to (rather the instinctively react to) different situations. Mindfulness helps you to accept the present moment and coaching helps you to make the best use of that moment. 

I’m now an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) level 5 qualified Coach and Mentor and act as an Internal Coach at Connect Housing.

Mindfulness alone will bring enormous benefits personally and professionally. Embracing a coaching culture will help the commitment and performance of staff soar, whilst freeing the leaders’ time to respond to the ever changing environment that we work in.

If you’re interested in mindfulness or coaching join me and Sharon Klein from Azure Consulting on 21 September at the National Housing Federation’s Young Leader Experience. You can also connect with me on Twitter @KirstyMConnect or Sharon @AzureConsult.

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