Companies thriving in 2020, 2030 and beyond. The HEFTIER answer.
The underpinnings of any strategy should recognize that companies are made of human beings who fundamentally want to feel a deeper sense of purpose, contribution, connection and belonging.
Current State: "The Not So Good News"
The collateral damage of unrelenting stress of living in Modern times can be viewed through the lenses of the Body-Heart-Mind.
Body - Physically, stress has become one of the leading public health threats. Periods of stress need to be followed by rest and recovery for the body to stay in balance. This cycle is true for muscles and the body as a whole organism. In the typical full-time work schedule in the U.S., people spend the majority of waking time at work or preoccupied with work when they are "not working". Technology enables (and expects) connectivity 24/7.
The moment we wake up in the morning, we are already late, immersed in emails, looking at overly scheduled calendars before feet even hit the floor. This unrelenting stress has huge implications to our health and well-being.
Recovery from stress does not compensate for the degree or period of sustained exposure to stress factors. In other words, our bodies are like cars that never fully turn off. At best, they idle with the engine still running. There are alarming rates of increased auto-immune disorders, mild to severe gastrointestinal problems, heart attack and disease and more that are attributed to being activated, exacerbated or caused by excessive and unmitigated stress. Neuroscience around stress reactivity reveals the harmful effects of chronic stress as well as illuminates the powerful possibilities in skillful, stress-mediated responses.
Heart – Workplaces in the US are not typically where our most genuine, authentic self can be expressed or even acknowledged. In generalized gender norms, women still face the challenge of impossibly competing demands with cross-currents of unachievable expectations. Men face the singular, pervasive demand of Never Appearing Weak. Vulnerability may be a good buzz word but no one is sure how close to get to the edge of the water.
In addition to stress from work, personal lives can present immense strain. Stressors can include finances, a marriage, family life, relationships, long-term care giving, the emotional strain of health concerns, grief of loss as well as the unprecedented pace and activities in our schedules.
Another potent but less visible source of stress is in our internal world in the form of The Inner Critic. Stress reactivity can be triggered and reinforced by our internal monologue delivering harsh mandates and criticism derived from messages received in early childhood, comparison to others, not-enoughness, Imposter Syndrome, and shame.
Our sense of emotional well-being is strained as technology drives more and more interactions. Digital interactions (text, tweet, voxer, email, social media, etc.) distance us from the basic human elements of connection through body language, presence. We have an extraordinary circuitry of the mind, heart, body connection that is activated in the presence of others such as emotional neuronal mirroring which cannot happen by looking at our phone. We are also less able to simply schedule in emotional connections, much less cultivate and maintain them, in cases where work dominates the landscape of our lives.
Mind – Our minds have grown accustomed to such constant stimulation that there are fewer opportunities for Space. Space is where creativity and innovation are born. Research shows that multi-tasking is not only a myth but a brain tasking that creates inefficiency, error and strain.
Our evolutionary make-up embeds a negativity bias in how we interpret the world and ourselves. The mind runs catastrophe scenarios, issues judgements, internalizes "shoulds", over-generalizes, ruminates on the past, projects to the future, moves way from aversion or discomfort, tells incomplete stories to “make sense” of the world and generally gives us a hard time. This is by exquisite design and helped us stay at the top of the food chain. However, without awareness, these mental functions do not serve us well in modern living.
Deepening our understanding of mental states through stillness practices and mindfulness gives space to
b) View our thoughts with greater objectivity
c) Make intentional choices about how to move forward.
The stories we tell ourselves can be viewed from a healthy distance and re-examined. Understanding and honoring the extraordinary functioning of the mind allows us to hold the mind (and human existence) in awe while unbinding us from believing we are our thoughts. This realization sets a powerful stage for transformation, self-awareness and growth.
So, what companies can do. – The Good News!
Visionary companies can find answers to the questions above in the domains of 1) Stress – Reduction and 2) (Re-)Humanizing People in the work place.
Domain 1 - Reduce Stress.
Look honestly at the level of stress in the organization and explore meaningful strategies for short- and long-term stress reduction approaches for individuals and teams.
The single biggest investment companies can make that will ripple out across all areas and all levels of the organization, it is in regular, robust mindfulness-based programs, offerings and practices.
Enhanced Decision Making
Greater Productivity and Fulfillment
Improved physical health and well-being
Increased creativity and innovation
Strengthened Emotional Regulation
Increased compassion and prosocial behavior
Improved brain structure and function
Reduced implicit bias
Decreased symptoms with pain, depression, anxiety and cancer
Greater emotional regulation (less judgement, more equanimity)
The canon of mindfulness research in the U.S. took root 40 years ago with Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) work at the UMass Health System and Center for Mindfulness. Today, the intersection of research, science and traditional practices has tipped the study and practice of mindfulness into mainstream. The Association of Mindfulness Research shows a tipping point to mainstream capturing data on the number of mindfulness-based publications and journals by year since 1980. The uptick is 900%
10% Happier by Dan Harris
Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat Zinn
Mindfulness Center at Brown University and the Center for Mindfulness at UMass
B. Coaching. People cannot see their blind spots, the ways of being that get in the way of effective communication, relationship building, creativity and growth. Coaching individuals and teams builds collective organizational wisdom and skillfulness in emotional intelligence, self-awareness, thought(ful) leadership, mindful communications, and authenticity. Coaching is no longer reserved for senior executives but brings sustained benefits when introduced at all levels of the organization.
C. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep often gets sacrificed either by cutting sleep short for other activities, a perceived badge of honor or restless sleep due to technology exposure, stress and insomnia. Regular night’s sleep is a profound, game-changing lever to pull for our well-being and vibrance. Companies can raise awareness and take visible, action-ed steps to encourage shorter working days and offer technology “lights out” hours. Research and high-profile business leaders are increasingly showing the critical need for sleep to avoid burnout and as a means to achieve optimal success and fulfillment.
Domain 2 (Re-)Humanize People.
D. Vulnerability. Talk About It.
Giving voice to shame and honoring vulnerability is our most direct path to connection and authenticity. Brene Brown’s research has profoundly opened dialogue on these topics and articulated what is possible and achievable in companies where people can fully show up while “Daring Greatly” – an often-quoted excerpt from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt. In generalized terms, men critically need greater access to their vulnerability in order to tap into the possibility of connection, meaning and belonging. Women need this fluency with vulnerability in order to draw critical boundaries. If people are not allowed to express and experience vulnerability, their humanness is cut short. In these cases, companies will only be as successful as their incentives which act like a transaction that effectively pays off employees for contribution. Any parent who has ever paid off a child with a sugary “bribe” understands the short-term thinking of such measures.
E. Have Difficult Conversations. Build Trust.
Companies can prioritize learning and development around difficult and crucial conversations. Here, individuals learn to recognize the feelings underlying important, high stakes conversations and learn to stay present to strong emotions – their own and others. Learning to engage skillfully in difficult conversations also deepens empathy, active listening and the capacity to understand other views. This is not possible without experiencing and growing the vulnerability “muscle”. to attract and retain top talent and become a truly fulfilling place to work (and live).
These skills build the very foundation of trust that allows for risk-taking, creativity, true innovation, radical candor and visionary leadership.
F. Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
Companies across industries like Qantas, Apple and Deloitte are demonstrating the path to success rests on diversity and inclusion efforts. The most innovative company must also be the most diverse "because we know new ideas come from diverse ways of seeing things," says Apple Inc. In a recent research study led by Deloitte, the findings showed "Demographic diversity... helps teams tap into knowledge and networks specific to a particular demographic group. More broadly, it can help elicit cognitive diversity through its indirect effect on personal behaviors and groups dynamics."
With that said, diversity and inclusion must be understood as separate domains. Diversity can be achieved by hiring a representative composite of a range of demographics and characteristics. Inclusion reflects a culture and environment of belonging, equity, safety and respect for all where it is safe to identify and remediate conscious and unconscious bias, discrimination or favoritism.
G. Practice Self-Compassion
WARNING: THIS IS NOT A SOFT SKILL.
Self-compassion is one of the greatest acts of courage we can manifest in our life.
Modern living has an unprecedented level of complexity, change, pace, possibility and stress. It is easy to fall prey to the belief that “others” have it all together while we are secretly a hot mess. In addition to external messages, the Inner critic can be driving internal force that prevents us from relating to the fullness of our life. It handily and harshly delivers messages of self-doubt and recrimination most often going unchallenged. Self-doubt can bring us to our knees more than any other external source of criticism and we often are not aware of how or when we are governed by these internal messages.
Imagine you are expressing genuine compassion to a group of people, yet you single out one person and harshly and repeatedly condemn them for their shortcomings. This would appear disturbing and even sadistic. Yet, we very often do this to our self by offering a generosity of spirit to others that we do not offer within.
We armor up and cover over ourselves out of protection and self-preservation. We live in mortal fear of being seen for our true self, less anyone find that we fall short, don’t measure up and really are imperfect after all.
The irony is that the deepest human need is to feel belonging and to be truly seen in our belonging. Fear and uncertainty are not going anywhere. It’s how we relate to it that becomes how we show up in our lives. As stated in Dare to Lead, “Who we are is how we lead”.
Here, we call upon self-compassion. We cannot be whole until we can allow in and practice self-compassion. When we are not whole, we cannot fully bring forth our gifts. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher on self-compassion, offers exercises to respond to our own challenges as we would to a friend and practical ways to change critical self-talk.
The questions posed in the beginning are from a visionary company seeking to become a destination for top talent to find fulfillment and to trailblaze a path that will embrace the change ahead.
For this and any company to thrive, the human beings who work there need to thrive. This requires a twofold strategy of taking game changing measures to humanize people who work there and to reduce stress. When this happens, people are whole and teams internalize a sense of greater purpose, and the capacity and desire to contribute is like a renewable, sustainable energy source.
 A Nation Under Pressure: The Public Health Consequences of Stress in America, by Vivek Murthy, Former U.S. Surgeon General (https://nccih.nih.gov/news/events/lectures/SES17)
 The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain–body communication by Agnese Mariotti, National Institutes of Health NIH https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5137920/
 Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on Emotion Regulation in Social Anxiety Disorder by Philippe R. Goldin and James J. Gross https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4203918/
 Yes, Impostor Syndrome Is Real. Here's How to Deal With It by Abigail Abrams, Time Magazine, http://time.com/5312483/how-to-deal-with-impostor-syndrome/
 Technology: Myth of Multitasking: Is multitasking really more efficient? by Jim Taylor, Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/201103/technology-myth-multitasking
 You Can’t Multitask, So Stop Trying by Paul Atchley, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2010/12/you-cant-multi-task-so-stop-tr
Cited by Jon Kabat Zinn in lecture at Brown University Public Health School, April 2019 referencing an excerpt from U. of Wisconsin, Researcher Helen Wang, in preliminary study awaiting publication on the benefits of mindfulness in clinical populations and general public
 Arianna Huffington has written from her own personal/professional experience on sleep in her books Thrive and The Sleep Revolution, http://ariannahuffington.com/
 Harvard Negotiation Project, https://www.pon.harvard.edu/shop/difficult-conversations-how-to-discuss-what-matters-most/
 Apple Inc., "Open," accessed October 3, 2017.
 "The diversity and inclusion revolution", by Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon. Deloitte Review, Issue 22, January 2018.
 Introduction to Dare to Lead, p11, by Brene Brown